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.

(Update on 10-Dec-2019: The City has not yet responded to this letter. We will continue to pursue this effort.)

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

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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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Park Board info session Oct 25 (Thurs) on BC Hydro plans to bury power cables in Nelson Park for West End substation

Park Board info events on BC Hydro Station Nelson Park Oct 2019We are sharing information here from the Vancouver Park Board.

Park Board staff were in Nelson Park on Oct 19 to inform park users about BC Hydro’s request to bury underground power cables in Nelson Park. A second event is set as follows:

October 24, 2019 (Thurs), 5 to 8 pm
St. Paul’s Church, Lower Hall, 1130 Jervis St, Vancouver, BC
Drop in format, with presentations at 5:30 and 7 pm, followed by discussion.

The purpose is to share updated findings about how the proposal may affect Nelson Park in the short-term and long-term, and talk with community members. Learn more about the Park Board’s study and share your comments.

The Vancouver Park Board is undertaking an independent study (https://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/nelson-park-impact-assessment-and-public-engagement.aspx) following the Vancouver School Board’s June 2018 acceptance of BC Hydro’s proposal to construct an underground electrical substation (https://www.bchydro.com/energy-in-bc/projects/west-end-substation.html) at the Lord Roberts Annex School site adjacent to Nelson Park.

BC Hydro is currently seeking permission from the Vancouver Park Board to bury underground power cables through Nelson Park to connect the planned West End Substation to the existing electrical system. The Park Board would like to understand the potential effects to Nelson Park. In 2020, Park Board staff will report back to the Park Board Commissioners to help inform the Commissioners’ decision regarding BC Hydro’s request.

BC Hydro west end substation map Nelson Park Oct 2019

Spread the Word
Nelson Park is a valued community asset in the heart of the West End. How to maintain this park for neighbourhood use and enjoyment is the focus of the Park Board Study over the coming months. Community perspectives are essential to this process. Please help spread the word.

Stay Informed
For more information about the Vancouver Park Board study:
– Visit the webpage: vancouver.ca/nelsonparkrow
– Share on Twitter: Vancouver Park Board @parkboard
– Like them on Facebook: Vancouver Park Board @parkboard
Subscribe to get Study updates

Project Contact
Alexandre Man-Bourdon
Landscape Architect | Park Development
Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation
2099 Beach Avenue, Vancouver, BC
Email: alexandre.man-bourdon@vancouver.ca

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Organ & Politicians: Vancouver Centre – All Candidate Debate at St. Paul’s Church October 10, 2019 (Thurs)

All candidates debate St Pauls 10-Oct-2019Pipe Vancouver-Centre federal candidates

Organ & Politicians – Vancouver Centre – All Candidate Debate at St. Paul’s Church
October 10, 2019 7pm to 9:30pm

St. Paul’s Anglican Church
1130 Jervis Street
Vancouver, BC V6E 2C7

St. Paul’s is hosting an “All Candidate’s Debate” on Thursday October 10, 2019 from 7 pm to 9:30 pm in the church.

Michael Molnar, music director and Past President of the Vancouver Centre of the Royal Canadian College of Organists, will pump out a few tunes to get the crowd inspired using the historic pipe organ which was built by Casavant Frères of Sainte-Hyacinthe, Québec. It is one of the oldest instrument of its kind in Canada west of the Rockies.

The Vancouver-Centre federal candidates will pontificate on the election issues that are of interest to parishioners and the community at-large such as: refugee issues, peace and disarmament; clmate change, poverty, religious freedom, sexual exploitation, and public health care,  among others.

Everyone is welcome. It is your chance to get to know your candidates.

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A useful reference:

Here’s who’s running in Vancouver in the 2019 federal election
Your guide to Vancouver federal ridings and their candidates
John Kurucz / Vancouver Courier
OCTOBER 3, 2019

https://www.vancourier.com/news/here-s-who-s-running-in-vancouver-in-the-2019-federal-election-1.23965732

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Open house (Sept 26, Thurs): Haro + Bute Streets upgrades, Haro Street Bikeway, Chilco + Robson Streets affected

Public notice. This came by e-mail today from the City of Vancouver. Here is an opportunity for input from residents.

Note that at least one point here did not come up in previous public consultation – “Converting a short stretch of Chilco St. (from the driveway of 815 Chilco St. to Robson St.) to one-way northbound for motor vehicles to reduce vehicle volumes.”

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CoV Haro Bute upgrade logo Sep 2019

Image from City of Vancouver

[Text below from City of Vancouver]
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we upgrade essential infrastructure in the neighbourhood.
HARO STREET BIKEWAY: SHARE YOUR INPUT
In coordination with the water main replacement, we’re planning improvements to the Haro Street Bikeway between Denman and Thurlow Streets. The changes would:
  • Improve accessibility, comfort and safety for people walking, rolling and cycling
  • Make the intersection easier to navigate for all road users
  • Maintain access to residences, businesses and other destinations along Haro Street

Join Today’s Open House 
Drop by our open house to chat with staff, learn about the proposed design options, and share your feedback to inform a final design.

  • When: Thursday, September 26, 2019, 5-8pm
  • Where: West End Community Centre, 870 Denman Street, Bidwell Room

Share Input Online
Can’t make it? Share your feedback online until Tuesday, October 15 at vancouver.ca/harobuteupgrades. Continue reading

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West End Community Plan Implementation Newsletter (September 2019 Update) from City of Vancouver

425786_West_End_Plan_Newsletter_Header COV 2019

Image: CoV

The City of Vancouver has e-mailed a “West End Community Plan Implementation Newsletter” (September 2019 Update) to newsletter subscribers. For non-subscribers, below is a text only version, minus the photos, with updated times. Or alternatively, click here to see it online.

West End Neighbours encourages residents to have a good look at the information here, attend info sessions that interest you, and actively provide input back to the City.

Over the coming weeks, we will do some posts on topics here, and welcome your input, comments, and questions for consideration by e-mailing us at westendplanning@gmail.com.

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West End Community Plan Implementation Newsletter” (September 2019 Update)

Hello Everyone,

We’re pleased to provide an update on the implementation of the West End Community Plan, featuring many exciting projects across the community.

Recent development in the community is contributing to new amenities that were identified in the Plan’s Public Benefit Strategy (PBS). The PBS provides direction for future investments in the community over the long term, including affordable housing, childcare, parks, civic facilities, transportation and more.

Several projects from the West End PBS will be moving forward over the coming months, and there will be opportunities for you to be involved and share your ideas.
Get News and Updates Online
The West End Plan website now features a new map and projects calendar which provides links to updates on the latest implementation projects, upcoming open houses and events, surveys and more. Continue reading

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Georgia-Alberni corridor and Lower Robson flooded by new tower construction due to West End Community Plan

Applications Georgia Alberni corridor 2013 to May 2019 WEN

Did you know that towers approved or under review for a small area of the West End along West Georgia Street, Alberni Street, and Robson Street, if stacked up, would be nearly two kilometers high, rise 618 storeys, and house 6,000 people?

The West End Community Plan adopted in November 2013 phrased the overall direction for the Georgia and Burrard Corridors and Lower Robson as follows:

Strategically locate opportunities for new growth through increased heights and densities along the Georgia and Burrard Corridors and in Lower Robson to help deepen housing affordability and to contribute public benefits.

What do these words really mean? What does this translate to on the ground? How has implementation “deepened” housing affordability? How has it “contributed to public benefits”?

West End Neighbours tallied the tower developments (rezonings and development applications) in this part of the West End for the just more than five years since the plan was adopted, and here are some of our statistics:

  • 618 storeys (cumulative)
  • 6,240 feet (cumulative), equivalent to 1.9 kilometers high
  • Floor space ratios (FSRs, a measure of density) ranging from 7.7 to 14.95
  • 2,948 units, with space for an estimated 6,000 residents (for comparison, the implementation of the WECP over a period of thirty years envisioned 9,000 residents across the entire West End)
  • 3,346 parking spots

Now that over five years have passed, the West End has seen a huge amount of change in some parts of the neighbourhood and more is on the way. West End Neighbours wrote  to City Council in January  2019 calling for a five-year review and report on WECP implementation. (We’re still waiting for a response from the Mayor and City Hall.)

Meanwhile, since no comprehensive summary is available from the City, we have been doing some tracking of numbers based on media coverage plus various documents on the City’s website. More comprehensive analysis is needed for the entire West End, particularly for Davie Street plus the Burrard corridor (including Thurlow Street) where a demolition and construction boom was triggered by the WECP.

Here is an image from the WECP.

WECP page 20 on Thurlow-Burrard Georgia-Alberni corridors

Page 20 of the West End Community Plan (2013)

The WECP contained coded wording for the Georgia-Alberni corridor: “Strengthen the urban frame” and “intensify … towards greater clarity.” Also, peppered throughout the WECP is the concept of “deepening” housing affordability, though no clear definition was provided. Continue reading

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West End Car Free Day Festival (Denman Street) Saturday June 15, 2019

Car Free Day Vancouver website June 2019

Credit: http://www.carfreevancouver.org

WEST END CAR FREE DAY FESTIVAL
Saturday, June 15th 2019
Noon to 7pm
On Denman Street from Davie to Robson

This festival is on again this year.

For details see the main website.
https://www.carfreevancouver.org/west-end

The vision is “Vibrant, inclusive, healthy communities designed for people, not cars” and the mission is “To nurture and grow car-free spaces and culture in collaboration with local communities.”

Other venues on different dates are on Main Street, Commercial Drive, and in Kitsilano. Please visit Car Free Day for details.

The Car Free Days are VERY popular! As evidence: Georgia Straight’s “Best Local Street/Community Festival” for 8 years, and the Vancouver Courier “Stars of Vancouver” Best Street Festival for 4 years.

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47-Storey tower proposed to replace Davie Village Community Garden (1157 Burrard at Davie – northwest corner)

1157 Burrard 1 proposal

Here is another proposed tower development enabled by the West End Community Plan (2013) and Rezoning Policy for the West End.

Prima Properties (privately held developer, no website) has submitted a rezoning application for a 47-storey tower 1157 Burrard Street, the site that was formerly a gas station at the northwest corner of Burrard and Davie Streets.

West End Neighbours has carried stories about this site a number of times since 2010, including the discussion on “Implementation of ‘Vancouver Views’ and Opportunities for Higher Buildings in the Downtown” under Vision Vancouver to permit tall towers at this important entrance to the West End. (See links below.)

The 21,605 square foot site was designated for rezoning in January 2014 under the West End Community Plan, approved in November 2013 by the Vision Vancouver dominated City Council. It is currently zoned DD (Downtown District) and C-5 (Commercial).

The full application can be viewed here: https://rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/1157burrard/index.htm

A community open house will be held as follows:

Thursday, April 25, 2019 (4:30 – 7:30 pm)
Holiday Inn, Columbia Ballroom (1110 Howe St).
The applicant team and City staff will be there to answer questions.

The project also goes to the Urban Design Panel (advisory to City Council):

Urban Design Panel
Wednesday, May 15, 2019
City Hall

Among other things, WEN will be interested in learning what benefits are being proposed for the West End community as a result of this proposal. How much will be paid in CACs and DCLs to benefit the West End?  After the original gas station closed, this site has been used as a community garden for years, saving Prima hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes under the BC Assessment taxation rules. (The taxes saved by Prima are shifted to the tax burden of other businesses and taxpayers.) Many developers use this loophole to save on taxes while they wait years to develop their property.

The proposal for a 47-storey mixed-use tower includes:

• a building height of 146.3 m (480 ft.)
• a total floor area of 28,077 sq. m (302,222 sq. ft.)
• a floor space ratio (FSR) (density) of 13.99
• 236 market residential (condo) units plus 50 hotel units or 50 more residential units (total consisting of 65 studios, 111 one bedrooms & 110 two-bedroom)
• ground-level commercial space (25,000 sq. ft.)
• a 37-space public childcare facility
• 1,570 sq. m (16,894 sq. ft.) of office space
• 265 vehicle parking stalls and 400 bicycle spaces
• a 37-space public childcare facility

The architect for the project is Merrick Architecture.

Further below is some coverage related to this site by West End Neighbours going back to 2010 (oldest to newest), showing how the City modified height restrictions on this and other sites downtown.

 

1157 Burrard_5 proposal

Continue reading

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Update on West End parking motions at City Council (March 12, 2019)

West End map from WECP 2013We reported that City Council would be discussing parking in the West End (Two motions in Council March 12 (Tues) regarding West End Parking Management Strategy & Participatory Budgeting Process).

Here is an epilogue.

Below is the text of the approved motions. Video clips of the Council discussion on these specific points is available online on the Council agenda page.

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For reference, much of this relates to a staff report that went to City Council on February 26. Here are the links.

2. West End Parking Management Strategy and Participatory Budgeting Process

Chris Darwent, Senior Parking Engineer, Engineering Services, to present on the Administrative Report dated January 29, 2019.

REPORT CONCLUSION: The West End Parking Strategy is working as expected as the number of permits being sold is decreasing and the amount of parking available for visitors has increased. As this is a long-term strategy, more time is required to see full results. Additionally, minor bylaw amendments are required to accommodate a small number of long-term residents that are currently not eligible for the non-market rate. The Participatory Budgeting Pilot is well underway with community engagement and is expected to have projects selected in June 2019.

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MOTION B1. Rescission of Resolution for West End Parking Management Strategy and Participatory Budgeting Process

MOVED by Councillor De Genova

SECONDED by Councillor Fry

WHEREAS

  1. On February 26, 2019, Council passed a resolution with respect to the West End Parking Management Strategy and Participatory Budgeting Process;
  2. The resolution passed by Council puts the pilot process on hold. This also affects the City of Vancouver’s ability to provide reduced-cost permits to long-term residents of the West End, including individuals living on fixed incomes;
  3. There are possible ways to move forward with staff recommendations and receive updates to the impact permit rates have on the availability of parking for visitors in the West End and feedback on giving long-term residents a reduced rate for their parking permit fee.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT Council rescind the resolution regarding the West End Parking Management Strategy and Participatory Budgeting Process, passed at the February 26, 2019, meeting.

CARRIED (Vote No. 04155)
(Councillor Kirby-Yung opposed)

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Two motions in Council March 12 (Tues) regarding West End Parking Management Strategy & Participatory Budgeting Process

The agenda for City Council on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 has two motions by Councillor Melissa De Genova relating to the West End.

See the Council agenda here.

  • Rescission of Resolution for West End Parking Management Strategy and
    Participatory Budgeting Process. PDF link here.
  • Moving Forward with the West End Parking Management Strategy and Participatory Budgeting Process. PDF link here.

Below is the text of both motions. Continue reading

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West End Community Plan (2013) preceded huge increase in property values, putting renters at risk

Broughton Apartments at 1370 Davie in 2019

Broughton Apartments at 1370 Davie Street

We have just passed five years since City Council adopted the West End Community Plan (Nov 2013) and then pre-zoned major sections of the West End (Jan 2014) for significant increases in density and towers particularly along the corridor streets.

West End Neighbours has called on the current council to review the impacts of the WECP. Is it producing the promised results (specifically “deepening affordability”)? We feel this review is important not only for the West End, but also for the entire city as it embarks upon a citywide planning process. When Council adopted the WECP, did Mayor Gregor Robertson and Council, planning department and professional planners consider these consequences?

WEN estimates that thousands of renters have been forced out of their relatively affordable long-term older rental units due to demolition and redevelopment for towers, as actually encouraged by the WECP, and we think the City needs to do a tally and consider how to better protect renters and businesses.

An article in the Vancouver Sun today provides some information about impacts of the WECP and risks for both renters and rental building owners. It’s worth a read. Below are excerpts, plus a link to the full article online.

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“The ‘ticking time bomb’ threatening affordable rental homes”
By Dan Fumano, in the Vancouver Sun, 25-Feb-2019

Excerpts:

… The intricacies of B.C.’s property assessments are meeting the realities of Metro Vancouver’s property market in a way that discourages the operation of long-term affordable rental housing in favour of the development of new condos, landlords say.

In other words, the system seems to incentivize the opposite of the outcome our leaders say they want.

…  Older rental homes are, as expected, more affordable. CMHC data show Vancouver apartments built between 1975 and 1989 are, on average, 40 per cent cheaper than those built since 2005. But longtime landlords say the current system threatens their ability to operate the older rental apartments that form a crucial part of the city’s housing stock.

Consider the Broughton Apartments in Vancouver’s West End. In 2015, the property taxes for this 40-year-old, 47-unit rental building on Davie Street were assessed at $854 per unit, said a representative of the owner, Cressey Development Group. For this year, the assessment is expected to be around $2,620 per unit.

That represents a property tax hike of more than 200 per cent over four years.

… As property values in the West End have soared faster than the city-wide average in recent years — particularly since the approval of the West End Community Plan in 2013 and the subsequent flurry of development activity — the corresponding skyrocketing property taxes have been blamed for the deaths of several mom-and-pop businesses, everything from beloved neighbourhood pubs the Dover Arms which pulled its last pint in 2017, to retail fixture Chocolate Mousse Kitchenware, which closed its doors last week after facing a 400 per cent property tax hike over a three-year period. Continue reading

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