City Hall’s failure to notify many residents (renters) of new development projects – case in point 1177 (1171) Jervis Street

1301-Davie_2 side vew proposed 19 storeysHere below, WEN shares some of our correspondence with seniors officials and Vancouver City Council about inadequacies  and inconsistencies in the City’s notification to the public about proposed developments. In this development of a 19-storey tower at 1177 (1171) Jervis, approved by the City on May 5, 2015, renters living in the neighbourhood did not receive fair and adequate notification.

Why is this issue important? Because the City is moving toward removing developments from the City Council / Public Hearing process and giving the Development Permit Board (consisting of just four City employees) a bigger role in approving developments. The increased power of the DPB, combined with the reduced notification of affected residents, is going in the wrong direction.

The correspondence gets somewhat detailed, but if you read it, the points are clear. The City is being inconsistent and unfair its notification to residents (in this case, renters in particular) about important City Hall decisions that will affect them.

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Epilogue:

WEN received no response to our March 24 message. And in fact, the City sent no further notification to renters near the 1177 Jervis site subject to the tower proposal. Nor did the City even add the date to the sign-board on site to notify local residents of the all-important DPB meeting of May 5, which was the last opportunity for public input on this development.

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WEN to Vancouver City Council

Sent: Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Subject: Public Notification for 1177 Jervis Street – Development Application File: 418742

Dear Mayor and Council,

… this is time-sensitive for the Public Hearing on March 24, 2014 [amendments to the Downtown Official Development Plan].

The main point is the inconsistency of logic/justifications and the smaller effort to contact residents in the West End, when comparing the DODP amendments today versus notification about the development at 1177 Jervis Street.

Why is this important? The City appears to be moving toward removing developments from the City Council / Public Hearing process and giving the Development Permit Board a bigger role in approving developments. The increased power of the DPB combined with the reduced notification of affected residents is going in the wrong direction.

Please see below for details.

West End Neighbours

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From: West End Neighbours
Date: Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 1:41 PM
Subject: Re: Public Notification for 1177 Jervis Street – Development Application File: 418742
To: “McNaney, Kevin”
Cc: “LeBreton, Wendy” (Planner), “Jackson, Brian (PDS)” (Manager of Planning and Development), “Correspondence Group, City Clerk’s Office”

Mr. Kevin McNaney
Assistant Director of Planning, Vancouver – Downtown Division
Planning and Development Services, City of Vancouver

Thank you Mr. McNaney for your response.

While we recognize some of the challenges in contacting households of different tenure, West End Neighbours (WEN) is not aware of the vast majority of rental households in the West End having “red dots” on their mailboxes objecting to unaddressed admail – visits to West End buildings do not prove this to be the case. We have also heard that Canada Post actually ignores the “red dots” and requires a signed note filed with Canada Post to stop such mail, so we urge the City to reconfirm their formal policies and practices.

We note that the Planning Department’s recent report to Council dated February 23, 2015 (link below, for Public Hearing tonight, March 24) regarding the Downtown Official Development Plan amendments makes reference to notifications to renter households:  http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20150303/documents/p3.pdf

The excerpt from the report on the options for public notification includes the following, and we note in particular the approach in bold:

Due care will be taken to ensure a more explicit and robust Public Hearing notification process is followed to address the concerns of the Court. The specific notification for the DODP amendments in this report will be expanded beyond both the requirements of the Vancouver Charter, our typical process, and the previous notification processes for the West End and Downtown Eastside plan which was the subject of the Court’s critique. Table 1 highlights the recommended process which includes:
  • advertising in the local newspapers;
  • a postcard mailed to:
    o all property owners in the DODP area (approximately 23,000) 
    o all business license holders in the DODP area (approximately 13,000)
    o all occupants in the DODP area (approximately 30,000) through Canada Post unaddressed ad mail (to ensure renters are also notified);
  • a notice and information on the City website (Planning webpage); 
  • an email notice to:
West End, DTES, and Downtown South stakeholders
individuals who have signed up to the community plan listservs for the West End and DTES
individuals who have signed up for the Brenhill rezoning or development permit process notification lists; and
  • notification via social media.

We are pleased to see that the City of Vancouver has taken this extensive approach at notifying residents in the Downtown Area, and we continue to believe that all residents of the West End — both owner and renter households — should be made aware of changes in their neighbourhood.

If the City of Vancouver is not willing to undertake mail-outs to West End renter households as has been done recently in the Downtown Area, WEN would ask that as a minimum, the signs posted on the sites of development proposals be updated to indicate the opportunities for public input to the project.

In this case, given that no Council consideration or public hearing is required for this project, we would ask for confirmation that notification WILL be provided on the existing signs to indicate the date of the Development Permit Board meeting for this project (1177 Jervis Street – Development Application File: 418742).

Thank you for your further consideration of this issue and we hope that you will consider this option to improve awareness and engagement in the West End .

Sincerely,

West End Neighbours

On Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 3:32 PM, McNaney, Kevin  wrote:

Dear WEN,
Thank you for your email regarding public notification for the 1177 Jervis Street Development Application, received on March 2, 2015.
Notification for this project, with the open house details, has consisted of the two large site signs on both the Davie and Jervis Street frontages, as well as notification postcards sent to property owners in the surrounding area. In addition, a notification letter and the development application materials were posted online at vancouver.ca/devapps (advertised on the site sign). The February 2015 West End Plan Implementation Newsletter also included information about the project and upcoming open house. This newsletter was sent to the West End Plan list-serv and was also posted at key locations in the community.
We are told that up to 80% of rental households have “red dots” on their mailbox indicating to Canada Post they do not want to receive “junk mail” (unaddressed mail). Unaddressed ad-mail from the City is included with this. As such, mail notification to rental households is an ongoing challenge in the West End and we rely on all of the alternative methods outlined above to reach as many renters as possible.
The 1177 Jervis Development Application will be considered by the Development Permit Board on May 4, 2015. DP Board meetings are advertised in the Vancouver Courier, as well as on our devapps webpage, so there will be advanced notice about the opportunity for the public to attend the meeting and speak on this application. This is highlighted on the site signs as well.
We also encourage community organizations, such as West End Neighbours, to help us spread the word about rezoning and development applications.
Sincerely,
Kevin McNaney
Assistant Director of Planning | VANCOUVER – DOWNTOWN DIVISION
PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT SERVICES | CITY OF VANCOUVER 
From: WEN
Sent: Monday, March 02, 2015 12:56 PM
To: LeBreton, Wendy; McNaney, Kevin
Cc: Jackson, Brian (PDS); Correspondence Group, City Clerk’s Office
Subject: Public Notification for 1177 Jervis Street – Development Application File: 418742
Wendy LeBreton                              Kevin McNaney
Project Facilitator                            Assistant Director
                                                         Central Area Planning
cc to:    Brian Jackson, General Manager Planning & Development
             Mayor & Council
Dear Ms. LeBreton and Mr. McNaney:
The City of Vancouver has arranged for a Public Open House for this evening, Monday March 2, for the development application at 1177 Jervis Street to accommodate a 19 storey residential tower.  The notification letter for the project is available at the link below:
West End Neighbours has learned recently from a neighbour to the site (an owner) that the notification for the project’s Open House did not including tenant households.  A response from city staff confirmed that only owners were notified and that owners are encouraged to share their notification with tenants.
It does not seem reasonable that the tenants of the directly adjacent “Berkeley Place” building (1345 Davie Street), or the hundreds of other nearby rental apartment units, would have no direct notification of a project that has the potential to significantly affect them.
During the West End Community Plan process and in other development applications recently considered in the West End, the issue of notification to tenant households has been raised, and the Planning Department committed to notifying all households, regardless of tenure.  This has been noted as a key issue for the neighbourhood as over 80% of West End households are of rental tenure.   As an example of the response, the Report to Council for the Beach Towers project (1600 Beach Avenue and 1651 Harwood Street) makes it clear that unaddressed ad-mail was one of the techniques used to notify tenant households and notes specifically in Appendix F to the Report to Council:
A Community Open House was held on May 31, 2011 at the Coast Plaza Hotel. A notification postcard, dated May 6, 2011, was mailed to 431 surrounding property owners and an additional 2,015 postcards were sent as unaddressed ad-mail. Staff, the applicant team, and a total of approximately 160 people attended the Open House.
The full report is available at this link:
At this late date West End Neighbours does not anticipate that the City would make changes in the arrangements for the Open House (tonight) for the project.  We do, however, think it reasonable for the Planning Department to address the notification problem with one or both of the following actions:
  1. renter households receive written notification of the project via unaddressed ad-mail or some other means and be invited to provide comments prior to the closure of the comment period for the project; and, or
  2. both owner and renter households be advised in writing in a timely way of the date of the Development Permit Board consideration of the project and offered the opportunity to share their opinions at that time.
 We hope you will agree that notification of proposed developments should be provided to ALL residents, regardless of tenure, and will put in place procedures to ensure this can take place for the project at 1177 Jervis Street and for ALL future development projects within the West End.
We would appreciate confirmation that you have reviewed this issue, and thank you in advance for your consideration in improving the development application review process for all stakeholders in the West End, regardless of tenure.
Sincerely,
West End Neighbours
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