urbanizta

Bylaw Reform Campaign

The vision for this Bylaw Reform Campaign, launched March 9, 2013, is to have Vancouver bylaws affecting health and livability of communities modernized and amended to become among the best practices of world-class cities. Vancouver neighbourhoods and citizens are encouraged to communicate with your elected officials (call 311 and ask for Mayor Gregor Robertson, or write mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca) to tell them it’s long overdue to amend Vancouver’s Noise Bylaw and Building Bylaw. A complete review of current statues, honest comparison  with best practices around the world, and meaningful public consultation process is required. Tell the Mayor and members of Council that you want formal commitments in the form of resolutions by City Council that the two most critical bylaws will be updated on priority time frame. Make public acceptance of soon-to-be-adopted policies affecting demolition/construction/development conditional on public promises to change the laws to better protect the health of citizens and livability of neighbourhoods. All these improvements should be accomplished before the November 2014 civic election. Send your comments and suggestions to citizenYVR@gmail.com.

This discussion is very timely. Many factors now create the perfect storm that could dramatically affect the impacts of development in every neighbourhood of Vancouver, very soon.

  • Vancouver staff are quietly racing toward the July 2013 deadline for City Council to adopt a “Regional Context Statement” compliant with the Metro Vancouver’s “Regional Growth Strategy.” To our knowledge the City of Vancouver has not held one single public meeting on the RCS. And it held not one single public meeting for Vancouver citizens before the RGS was adopted in 2011. Note that the time frame for both is thirty years, to 2040.
  • Four Vancouver neighbourhoods are currently undergoing community planning processes. The Downtown Eastside, Grandview-Woodland, Marpole, and the West End. These plans are attracting very little general public attention, and the final stage of drafting policies will probably be completed by July 2013, with final Council adoption in autumn 2013.
  • Vancouver City Council in October 2012 adopted an Interim Rezoning Policy until June or July 2013 — increasing the permitted height along EVERY SINGLE arterial street in Vancouver. Basically, that’s every street with a traffic light on it. This policy also allows higher buildings within 500 meters of every neighbourhood shopping area. Though not clear at the moment, it is possible that Council will make the “Interim” policy permanent in the summer of 2013.
  • Amendments to both the Noise Bylaw and Building Bylaw are long overdue.

NOISE BYLAW  AND GOOD PRACTICES

The City of Vancouver took over jurisdiction for the Noise bylaw from Vancouver Coastal Health a few years ago, and has made no changes to core aspects affecting communities since then. A review is long overdue. Some possible points for public input will be added below. Some things can be regulated by law. Others may be more appropriate for leading industry groups and individual companies to adopt as best practice guidelines encoded in writing.

  • Require contractors to have certified, real-time, continuous noise monitoring at all property boundaries. Require them to display the readings to City inspectors upon request, and pay fines for violations of noise limits.
  • Review the 85-decibel limit for noise.
  • Speed up the response time for inspectors to respond to complaints.
  • More will be added based on public input.
  • Dedicate a few thousand dollars to buy sound meters for City staff (Property Use Inspectors).

BUILDING BYLAW AND GOOD PRACTICES

This bylaw governs demolition and construction, among other things. This is where Vancouver needs to do much catching up to other municipalities. Some possible improvements are listed below. Here too, some things can be regulated by law. Others may be more appropriate for leading industry groups and individual companies to adopt as best practice guidelines encoded in writing

  • Ground vibration: Catch up to Toronto. Vancouver currently does not even acknowledge the fact that ground vibration occurs from demolition and construction site. Neighbours around 1401 Comox felt tremors the size of small earthquakes for weeks when Westbank used a five-tonne wrecking ball to smash concrete on-site when demolishing St. John’s Church in the West End. Seismologists were even interested in the opportunity to study geotechtonics in the area, but didn’t have equipment available.
  • Compensation for loss of views, light, sky: Rezonings are often equivalent of a direct transfer of wealth from neighboring individuals and the community to the property owner of a development site. Should project proponents be asked to negotiate with neighbours and compensate them for losses? Some jurisdictions already have measures in place for this.
  • Compensation for bad practices: If a contractor chooses a more disruptive form of work (e.g., failing to keep dust down by spraying water, choice of a noisy shoring method to save money, work on Saturday or evenings, etc.) should they be expected to compensate the community? Costs borne by neighbours could be quantifiable economically, or maybe they are intangible. Increased heating and cooling costs due to shadowing can be quantified. Increased cancer risk due to carcinogenic small particulate matter (SPM) from diesel engines can be estimated. Cleaning costs from dust can be estimated. Asthsma medicine costs can be estimated.
  • More will be added based on public input.

DECLARATION OF NEIGHBOURHOOD RIGHTS UNDERGOING DEMOLITION AND CONSTRUCTION

We will compile a template declaration for neighbourhoods to adapt and adopt and present publicly when faced with major projects. This could also include projects such as subway line construction.

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