WEN calls for a five-year review & report on West End Community Plan (WECP): Letter to City Council

West End Community Plan cover page 2013

Front cover of the West End Community Plan, adopted in Nov 2013.

The following letter went out to Vancouver Mayor and Council today.

**********

January 16, 2019

Re: Request for a five-year review and report on the West End Community Plan (WECP)

Dear Mayor and Council, City of Vancouver:

We write to introduce West End Neighbours and to request a five-year review and report on the West End Community Plan (WECP). We believe such a report will be of value to West End residents. It could also be valuable information for the entire city now that Vancouver has initiated a citywide planning process.

In 2009, West End Neighbours launched the “No Rezoning Without a Comprehensive Plan” petition and garnered over 13,000 signatures. We held many public meetings and events on community issues, and these activities factored into City Council’s decision to eventually start the West End Community Plan process in 2012. Our website (www.WestEndNeighbours.ca) provides an extensive archive of our correspondence, reports, issues and activities. We are a member of the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN). Please also refer to the Appendix to this letter for additional background on some of the issues in the community.

Five years have passed since Council’s adoption of the WECP (November 20, 2013), so we think it is appropriate now to undertake a review of the results of the WECP to date, and to look ahead to the future. The community has been subject to a great deal of change over the last five years, and quite a lot more is still expected. Residents deserve a review of how the community plan has been working, and the outcomes to date.

In fact, the City’s planning department must already have much of this information. The west end community plan tor cover pagecriteria for “definition of success” (WECP original Terms of Reference) include these two points: “Have the commitment of the City (and, where appropriate) its partners to tracking its [WECP’s] long-term effectiveness” (Item 8); and “Provide a framework for positive change in the well-being of the West End” (Item 9). Presumably, City staff are already tracking the plan’s effectiveness and have criteria and means of verifying positive change, the results of which should be shared in the community.

As a start, topics for documentation could include:

  1. How many projects and units have been approved since the adoption of the WECP?
  2. How many projects and units are under application but not yet approved?
  3. What Community Amenity Contributions (CACs) have been secured to date?
  4. Where are CAC’s being allocated and how do they benefit life in the West End?
  5. How much social housing and rental housing has been created?
  6. How many existing rental units have been demolished or are proposed to be demolished?
  7. How much density from the Heritage Density Bank has been absorbed in the West End?
  8. Did approved projects, including laneway infill projects, comply with guidelines in the WECP and have they achieved outcomes that were suggested in the plan?
  9. What is the City doing to reduce construction impacts and protect the quality of life of existing residents during construction?
  10. Who can residents speak with regarding negative impacts of construction work, and what are the statistics on reports or complaints?

Conclusions reached from examining these types of questions can inform whether adjustments to guidelines or zoning are appropriate to ensure plan objectives are being met, and could help to inform policy development on the overall citywide plan. Continue reading

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Happy New Year 2019 from West End Neighbours: Looking back at the WECP and looking ahead to the future

West End view WEN 1-Jan-2019

Panoramic view of West End from Kits Point, January 1, 2019. Credit: West End Neighbours

Best wishes to all from West End Neighbours for a wonderful 2019.

WEN first started posting articles in July 2010, so this year marks our tenth year. The West End Community Plan (WECP) was adopted by City Council in November 2013, so it has just passed the five-year mark.

This coming year of 2019, it is time for a review of the results of the WECP, and to look forward to the future. The community has been subject to a great deal of change over the last five years, with quite a lot more expected over the coming years.  The West End deserves a review of how the community plan has been working, what the impacts have been, and how things might be improved moving forward.

WEN was created with this mission: To enhance and celebrate the quality of life, the distinct, diverse character and the heritage of the West End, a livable neighbourhood between downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park. We accomplish this by influencing policy decisions and ensuring change is based on evolving community needs, is neighbourly and respectful and reflects relevant and timely engagement with residents.

We look forward to working with interested citizens and groups in the coming months to review the WECP and look ahead as City Hall now begins a citywide plan.

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Commentary: Resolutions to make 2019 B.C.’s year of transparency (Dermod Travis, IntegrityBC)

background blur clean clear

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

by Dermod Travis, IntegrityBC (bold emphasis by West End Neighbours. Note that much of this applies to municipal governments.)

It’s that time of year again to propose a few New Year’s resolutions for B.C.’s political class and this year there’s a bit of a theme to the resolutions: transparency. No ill can come from it and it will fit into most holiday budgets to boot.

First up: allow individuals who are the subject of an inquiry, or investigation, to have the right to waive their right to privacy and thereby free government from any constraints it may feel over discussing a matter of public import.

These next two – with a nod to Dragnet’s Sgt. Joe Friday – could be considered as the “all we want are the facts” resolutions.

If you’re the minister responsible for a publicly-owned utility, say B.C. Hydro, and one of its senior executives tells you it’s sunny outside, you’d be well-advised to find a window and check for yourself.

Case in point: in a recent financial report the utility “notes that 493 (capital projects) have been delivered over the past five years at a cost of $6.9 billion – roughly 0.4 per cent over budget overall,” which sounds impressive, until you ask for the list and ask again and again and again. Continue reading

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Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware’s Swan Song – Christmas Animation 2018 and the West End Community Plan

After 33 years in business as a beloved local shop in Vancouver’s West End, Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware (1553 Robson Street) is being forced to close due to an enormous increase in property taxes on the retail space it leases, as a result of the dramatic increase in property values resulting from the West End Community Plan (WECP) adopted in 2013 by City Council.

Related article: Taxed to death: How Vancouver’s small businesses are falling victim to soaring property tax (Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware faces closure after a 92-per-cent rate increase, the latest in a line of long-established businesses set to shut shop) by Jan Zeschky, Westender, 14-Dec-2017.
https://www.vancourier.com/news/taxed-to-death-how-vancouver-s-small-businesses-are-falling-victim-to-soaring-property-tax-1.23121997

This site was rezoned as a part of mass rezoning in parts of the West End in January 2014 by the Vision Vancouver dominated City Council in line with the new WECP, allowing a significant increase in the permitted building height. At that point, the then landlord made a huge windfall profit when it sold the property to 1135952 B.C. Ltd., Inc. The final approval for the current owner VivaGrand Developments (the North American office of Xiangli, based in China) to build a 28-storey tower (1555 Robson Street – DP-2018-00589) is now set for the City of Vancouver’s three-person internal Development Permit Board, slated for 3 pm, January 7, 2019. (There never was a public hearing, but concerned citizens can register and speak to the DPB.)

Christmas message from owners:
We have installed our 23rd animated Christmas window. It is of course our Swan Song. Short of a miracle this will be our last Christmas. Now more than ever we need your support to get us to the end of our lease. If you haven’t shopped yet, we would love to see you, and if you have shopped, thank you… and we’d love to see you again. We would like to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas.
Karen & Jane and our lovely staff
The Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware

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Lyrics:
“IT’S A SWANDERFUL LIFE”

Chocolate Mousse Animated Christmas Window, December 2018

Some things in life are bad.
They can make you really mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
The property tax jumped 400 percent.
It’s even higher than the rent.
But cheer up because next year it gets worse. Continue reading

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28-storey tower at 1555 Robson Street: Development Permit Board (rescheduled to 7-Jan-2019) (DP-2018-00589)

1555-robson-render(Update 7-Dec: This item was advertised for the December 10 DPB meeting. But WEN has confirmed it was removed from the agenda at the last minute. The new date is January 7, 2019. See also Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware’s Swan Song – Christmas Animation 2018 and the West End Community Plan)

Another tower is up for its final development permit, part of the huge wave of land purchases and construction proposals made possible by the West End Community Plan (WECP) adopted by City Council in 2013. This meeting is open to the public and you may speak to the meeting if you register in advance.

Development Permit Board
“1555 Robson Street – DP-2018-00589”
[Scheduled for Dec 10, 2018, but cancelled and no new date set yet]  
Town Hall Meeting Room (1st Floor, City Hall, 453 West 12th Avenue), Vancouver City Hall

DPB site: https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/development-permit-board.aspx

Basic info:

  • Applicant is IBI Group (architect) on behalf of VivaGrand Developments, the North American office of Xiangli, “a leading real estate firm with 22 years of experience and over 350,000 square feet of residential, mixed-use, and infrastructure development in China” (no other info publicly available).
  • A 28-storey, mixed-use building with office and retail uses at ground level
  • 177 residential units including 24 units of what the city defines loosely as “social housing” (with a separate entrance), the rest being strata condo
  • A Floor Space Ratio of 9.63 (approximately 174,837 sq.ft.)
  • Building height of approx. 300 ft.

Many West End residents and visitors will know this location on Robson Street near Cardero as the home of the popular Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware, which got media attention a year ago when owners Jane and Karen Tennant were forced out of business after 33 years here as a result of a 92% property tax increase, which we attribute largely to the WECP.

NOTE: WEN has confirmed that Chocolate Mousse is still open for business (December 2018) at 1553 Robson Street. Tel. (604) 682-8223, open to 9 pm every day except Sunday (6 pm).

1555 Robson rendering by IBI GroupThe proposed tower replaces a two-storey commercial building from 1949. The tower, if built will be across the lane from a 43-storey tower at 1550 Alberni, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and now under construction by Westbank, also enabled by the WECP, and set for completion in 2020.

Online “mystery” bloggers at City Duo attended the Urban Design Panel meeting on October 31, 2018. Their report lavishes praise on the design, but inadvertently exposes some of the ways the City and this advisory body deal with design and regulatory issues: Continue reading

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November 20 marks FIFTH anniversary of the West End Community Plan: How has it been for you?

West End Community Plan cover page 2013The West End Community Plan (WECP) went before City Council on November 20, 2013 and Council adopted it after 10 pm that night. Happy fifth birthday, WECP! Zoning amendments to accommodate the plan were adopted two months later, at a daytime Public Hearing on January 23. (City’s official web page for WECP.)

The WECP is based on seven broad “principles”:

  1. Achieve a green, environmentally sustainable urban pattern.
  2. Support a range of affordable housing options to meet the diverse needs of the community.
  3. Foster a robust, resilient economy.
  4. Enhance culture, heritage and creativity in the city.
  5. Provide and support a range of sustainable transportation options.
  6. Protect and enhance public open spaces, parks and green linkages.
  7. Foster resilient, sustainable, safe and healthy communities.

While these principles are general and came with few quantitative targets, the plan makes specific mention of creating 7,500 new “homes,” and the words “affordable” or “affordability” appear 44 times in 139 pages. For example, “Deepening housing affordability and meeting the needs of a growing community are a priority,” says the summary statement, although nowhere is the definition of “deepening” provided. Another key feature of the plan is the Public Benefits Strategy, estimated at then to provide between $585 and $630 million in benefits to the community over 30 years, with the funds coming from development.

West End map from WECP 2013The full WECP document can be downloaded here (PDF, 139 pages):
https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/west-end-community-plan.pdf

Within months of Council’s adoption of the WECP, Business in Vancouver reported a “Real Estate Boom Projected For Vancouver’s West End.” (Our story here.) And that is exactly what we have seen.

Excerpt: “Vancouver’s West End is on the verge of a dramatic real estate revival sparked by density brought on by a recent community plan, according to a real estate industry report… ‘Nothing would have happened without the West End community plan,’ says James Lang, the market intelligence manager for Colliers International Realty. ‘That plan unlocked value and growth potential in the downtown core where land is so scarce.

Let’s look back before the plan’s adoption for a moment. Early in the public consultation process (2012 – 2013), West End residents were kept busy with periodic events, such as a story-telling evening, photo competition, road painting, the West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee (WEMAC, members hand-picked by two Council members, and with all meetings held at City Hall), and the “West End Champions Network” (created for the plan process but now defunct).

Just weeks before the plan went to Council for approval and after many months of community input and comment, residents who attended staff presentations were treated (but only for a matter of seconds) with their first and only chance to view a sophisticated 3D video model of the future West End, bristling with tall new towers that had not previously been indicated as part of the public consultation process. It included bands of development going up to 60 storeys in height along the Alberni Street, Burrard Street, and Thurlow Street corridors. Given the departure of this type of development from the themes shared with residents to that point, some might conclude that members of the development and real estate industry had been involved in a separate, parallel process with the City to discuss the development potential for certain areas and sites in the West End.

Now back to 2018. In the five years since November 2013, there has indeed been a wave of development and change: many demolitions and evictions of renters from older and more affordable rental buildings, tax increases and retail business closures; developer-funded buy-outs and displacement of strata condo owners to make way for tower developments; and lots of new tower construction, with big towers, primarily along the corridors along Davie, Robson, Alberni, and Thurlow Streets. Most of the new towers have been luxury condos, but some have been rental apartments – with luxury rents anticipated.

How has the West End Community Plan worked out for you? Continue reading

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Berkeley Tower tenants (1770 Davie) appeal for urgent action to prevent renoviction: Oct 29 (Mon) deadline for public input

Berkeley Tower 2018 credit tenants group

Berkeley Tower at 1770 Davie. Credit: Tenants’ group

The West End Community Plan was adopted in November 2013, five years ago.

It set off a gold rush for developers, enabling them to build towers up twenty, thirty, forty and more than fifty storeys along the main corridors of the West End – Robson, Alberni, Thurlow, and Davie.

During Community Plan consultation, the City and elected officials told West Enders that increased density will “deepen” housing affordability. Among the planning objectives, “livability” and “neighbourliness” also featured prominently. Despite that, there have been many demovictions and renovictions. As far as we know, the City is not keeping score, but the count of renters displaced could already be in the high hundreds or more.

Now the tenants of the iconic green and yellow Berkeley Tower (1170 Davie, at foot of Davie near Denman), are appealing to the community for urgent support to help them fight renoviction and displacement by Reliance Properties Ltd. Some of them have lived there forty years. It is a close community of neighbours.

Below is a bit more background and links to their website. The main point is that they are asking people to take immediate action by writing to the City of Vancouver. The “official” deadline for public input is Monday, October 29. Public input will be considered by the Development Permit Board, and a decision will be made in the coming weeks or months.

Suggested actions:

1. Oppose this application by writing a letter to the project facilitator at the City of Vancouver.
2. Share this information with others and encourage action. The more people who oppose, the stronger the chance the application will not be approved.

Writing an email is easy and can take as little as five minutes. All the steps and talking points are laid out here:
https://berkeleytower.wixsite.com/tenants/blank-page

More info (including links to media coverage):

https://berkeleytower.wixsite.com/tenants

https://www.facebook.com/BerkeleyTowerTenants

Continue reading

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Park Board All Candidates Meeting: 29-Sept-2018 (Saturday): West End Community Centre

WECCA Park Board All Candidates Meeting 29-Sep-2018

The West End Community Centre Association (WECCA) will be hosting this meeting:

Vancouver Park Board All Candidates’ Meeting
Saturday, September 29, 2018
2:30 to 4 pm

Ask the important questions, learn who will be responsive to the issues that affect you and issues that impact your community.

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West End Mayoral Forum for 2018 civic election: 9-Oct-2018 (Tues) at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church

WE Mayoral Forum 2018The next Vancouver civic election is October 20, 2018. This also happens to be five years since City Council adopted the West End Community Plan. A good time for taking stock and communicating with election candidates.

Several groups are organizing a West End Mayoral Forum. (Some voices are also calling for a forum of other candidates too, but we have no word on such a plan yet for City Council, School Board, or Park Board. Stay tuned.) The information below on the Mayoral Forum is adapted from the event’s dedicated Facebook page.

West End Mayoral Forum
Tuesday, October 9
7 to 9 pm
St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church
1022 Nelson Street, Vancouver

CANDIDATES: Ken Sim, Kennedy Stewart, Hector Bremner, Shauna Sylvester

Organizers: West End Families in Action (WEFA), WE Arts WEArts.ca, Denman & West Neighbours (DAWN), West End Seniors’ Network, Gordon Neighbourhood House, Metro Vancouver Alliance, Young Ideas, and St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church.

AIM
To provide a forum where candidates can explain their positions and hear the concerns of local residents via questions to be provided by stakeholders. Among the themes of concern within the West End about which candidates will have an opportunity to share their ideas are:

1. livability and quality of life;
2. residential affordability and homelessness; and
3. viability of independent local businesses.

FORMAT
Candidates will answer questions provided by stakeholders, and a moderator (Richard F Zussman, Global) will ensure that answers and exchanges among candidates are concise and on target so as to make best use of the 7:00-9:00 pm time frame for the event. Continue reading

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West End Seniors Community Planning Table to feature Rental Housing Task Force Consultation. Keynote by MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert: June 29, 2018 (Fri)

West End Seniors Community Planning Table, 29-June-2018
The West End Seniors’ Community Planning Table provides a forum for seniors, community groups, service providers and stakeholders to connect together, share information and take action on issues important to local Seniors. They meet regularly, and often the topics are of interest and relevant to not only seniors but to the entire community.

The Friday June 29 meeting is focused on housing, and features a keynote presentation by MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert, who is chair of the Rental Housing Task Force.

West End Seniors Community Planning Table Meeting
When:    Friday June 29,  10:00 am – 12:00 pm,
Where:  St Andrews Wesley Church – 1018 Nelson Street,

 

The meeting starts with Community Program Updates from Organizations (~30 min)
● St Andrews Wesley Program Updates
● Central Presbyterian Updates
● Mole Hill Housing Society Updates and Hydro Substation
● Gordon Neighbourhood House & Seniors Advisory Committee Updates
● Battered Women Support Services Program Updates
● West End Coal Harbour Community Policing Updates
● QMUNITY program Updates
● Others
And after a 15 minute break, the keynote begins with MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert. This is an important opportunity to have your voice heard during the consultation period (ending soon) to discuss rental tenancy issues.

The Rental Housing Task Force wants to better understand what further changes may be needed to modernize B.C.’s tenancy laws.

  • Identifying options to improve security and fairness for both renters and rental housing providers, while addressing the challenges of affordability;
  • A review of the existing laws and how they apply to different housing situations;
  • A review of innovative approaches in other jurisdictions.

Continue reading

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