People’s campaign begins: Transform Vancouver’s bylaws

In Uncategorized on March 10, 2013 at 9:07 am

March 9, 2013 marks Day One of a people’s campaign to transform Vancouver’s noise and building bylaws — to better protect the health, safety, and quality of life of citizens living near demolition and construction sites. We encourage neighbours near every major construction site to set up a blog to share information among neighbours, and compensate for the lack of communication and engagement from the City, property owner, and contractors. Anyone is free to copy from this site and make improvements. We also encourage inter-connection among such initiatives.

We are witnessing system failure. It is really only by working together that neighbours are able to look after the livability and quality of life in their own neighbourhoods. This case at 1401 Comox is a poster child for many flaws and biases in the current consultation, rezoning, development, and construction paradigm in Vancouver.

Vancouver’s regulations are decades out of date, and severely substandard when it comes to balancing the interests of construction companies versus the interests of residents in communities. The Westbank/Peterson/Henriquez project to build a 22-story tower at 1401 Comox, on the former site of St John’s Church, is a test case, a poster child, that will bring in some of the region’s biggest developers and most prominent architects, the top industry organization (Urban Development Institute), politicians and City staff. Legislation will be improved. Industry guidelines and company practices will have to change so that Vancouver can one day claim it is a world leader in best practices for protection of its citizens and neighbourhoods. Today, we are far from that spot.

To achieve success, the involvement of many people in communities around the city will be essential.

Stay tuned for more. See related material on CityHallWatch.


Vancouver’s West End is currently undergoing a community plan, to guide development here for the next several decades. Official information is at www.vancouver.ca/westendplan. Though it has not been discussed publicly, the City reportedly has plans to add thousands of new residents here. The Downtown Eastside, Grandview-Woodland, and Marpole are undergoing community plans too. Major policy text will be nearly completed by the summer of 2013, with only minor tweaking before policies are adopted by Council in autumn 2013.

The West End has the highest population density of any neighbourhood in Vancouver.

Persons per hectare draft graph, Vancouver, 3-Mar-2013This is a mature, existing community — unlike Yaletown and Coal Harbour where massive development came to what was previously industrial land. Should Vancouver Mayor and Council introduce amendments to Vancouver bylaws to respect communities better? Is special consideration needed for densely-populated communities? Should the industry engage in dialogue with communities to develop a best-practices guide that goes beyond the minimum regulations encoded in the Noise Bylaw and Building Bylaw?

Westbank Projects Corp. is one of the most favoured developers in the Vancouver, with many major tower projects already approved, now under construction, or awaiting approval. Now in the pipeline for approval is one at 2220 Kingsway. Just approved was a precedent-setting tower in Chinatown on Main Street. One well along the way is at 1569 West 5th Avenue in Kitsilano. Oakridge Mall renovation. Telus Gardens. The B.I.G. tower being proposed for Beach and Pacific, beside an off-ramp of the Granville Bridge. More towers at 70th and Granville. Another at 1412 Howe Street. And many more. This company’s CEO, Ian Gillespie, can do better to show his ability to respect the communities that are home to his projects. His financial partner, Ben Yeung of Peterson Investment Group, and Gregory Henriquez, architect in many Westbank projects, also need to be involved in making positive change happen. As a leading developer in Vancouver and guest in so many neighbourhoods of Vancouver, naturally the firm will be proud one day to have written policies and guidelines in place making it a world leader in every aspect of neighbourhood engagement. But a lot of work remains for everyone. And only the public really has an inherent incentive to make this all happen. So let us begin.

Should City Council make future approvals conditional on better behaviour in current and future project applications? Absolutely, yes. Write your elected officials at mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca and let them know what you think. These issues need to go to the top.

  1. How about ensuring that Vancouver Councillors comply with the Vancouver Charter in granting rezonings?

    Rezonings are restricted under the following enumerated and inclusive conditions:

    565A. Council may make by-laws …
    (e) providing for relaxation of the provisions of a zoning by- law or a by-law prescribing requirements for buildings where
    (i) enforcement would result in unnecessary hardship,
    (ii) Council determines that the proposed development would make a contribution to conserving heritage property,
    (iii) Council determines that the proposed development makes provision for public space or activities,
    (iv) Council determines that the proposed development makes provision for low cost housing for persons receiving assistance, or
    (v) the proposed development is in relation to a special event, as designated by Council by by-law or resolution.

    A half dozen subsidized SAFER units for just 5 years in a project of 186 otherwise market units does NOT comply with the spirit or letter of 565A.(iv). This project–and others like it–is simply unconstitutional under the Vancouver Charter, a violation of the most basic and central of civic laws.

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