Media reports on Community Centre Associations and Park Board’s proposed operating and funding changes

Many media reports have been filed in the course of the last few weeks on Park Board’s proposed changes to the agreements with Community Centre Associations (CCAs). The programming, funding and the future quality of services at our local Community Centres is at stake. The changes desired by Park Board potentially represent the most significant departure from current public policy in its history. Please find below a partial collection of links to many of the news articles on this topic:

The Globe and Mail (January 28, 2013)
Park administration changes spur public outcry

The Straight (January 30, 2013)
Proposed Vancouver community centre plan draws opposition

The Vancouver Courier (February 1, 2013)
Community centres protest Vancouver park board plan – Public meeting at Killarney turns ugly after commissioner’s rant

The Vancouver Courier (February 1, 2013)
Vision pokes hornet’s nest at community centres

The CBC was at special Park Board meeting on Monday Feb 4th – hear Terry Martin’s comments at West End Community Centre:
Other video clip: Ainslie Kwan, President of Killarney Community Centre Society:
Full CBC article:

Vancouver Courier (Feb 5, 2013)
Police arrive at end of marathon Vancouver Park Board meeting

Vancouver Sun (Feb 5, 2013)
Vancouver park board votes to go ahead with changes for community centres

The Province (Feb 5, 2013)
Emergency parks board forum draws 300 as sides entrench

The Straight (Feb 5, 2013)
Despite opposition, Vancouver park board votes in favour of new community centre agreement

The Province (Feb 5, 2013)
Hundreds protest Vancouver park board decision to centralize cash

24 Hours Vancouver (Feb 5, 2013)
Vancouver park board passes controversial plan


Posted in Uncategorized |

NSV comments on Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre plan — vast implications for all Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Today Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver wrote to Mayor and Council regarding information presented at public open houses on January 23 and 26, 2013. The letter (below) is mainly in support of Eye on Norquay’s analysis of the information, which includes new housing types and zoning proposed for Vancouver, as well as “benefits packages” for communities that take additional density. What happens in the Norquay neighbourhood along Kingsway will have major implications for most neighbourhoods of Vancouver.

The deadline for submitting comments has been extended by a week to February 11, 2013.

Open House boards and comment form are online at

Background and opinion from Joseph Jones:



February 4, 2013                                                                                                  
City of Vancouver Planning Department
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4
By Email:
Re: Norquay Comment Sheet – Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre
       Open Houses – 23 and 26 January 2013
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, NSV, are supportive of the comments by Joseph Jones of Norquay as linked here: .
We want to acknowledge the tremendous work that he and his wife Jeanette Jones have done in their volunteer efforts for their community on this issue over the last six years.
The proposed rezoning housing types need to be considered in context with both the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centre Plan approved by Council and from the perspective of the Council approved CityPlan Community Vision on which the plan was intended to be based.
It continues to be our concern that the Norquay Village Neighbourhood Centres Plan did not respect the Community Vision in many respects, and was against the opinions of the community as confirmed by surveys that were ignored by the City.
We note that there are no zoning schedules proposed and the display boards are general without much detail. It is difficult to assess the entire proposal as the pictures and examples are not to scale or inclusive.
However, the community has cooperated with the City in trying to work within the given parameters. Joseph Jones has provided reasonable comments which we encourage you to implement.
The issues raised about community amenities are of particular concern. Norquay is already underserved for the existing population and there is little in this plan that would improve that situation. In fact the problem will be compounded with increased development, as proposed under the plan, with no adequate increase of services for the additional population.
Vancouver’s approach to funding amenities through development is clearly failing. More effective and equitable ways to deliver public benefits must be established.
From a city-wide perspective, we emphasize that the housing types proposed and the Norquay Vision implementation process should not be considered precedents for other areas in the city. The people of Norquay—and every Vancouver neighbourhood—deserve better.
The Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
Group contact email:
Cc: Mayor Robertson and Councillors,
Posted in Uncategorized |

MEDIA STATEMENT: NSV declares support for Community Centre Associations in battle with Vancouver Park Board

(Vancouver, February 4, 2013) Regarding the current debate about the Vancouver Park Board’s efforts to centralize control of Community Centre Associations, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver wishes to express its support for the independence of CCAs to control their own programming and pricing models.

We believe that a one-size-fits-all approach being proposed by the Park Board will not work well, as each centre deals with different costs and different needs. Past cuts by the City of Vancouver to Park Board funding are one factor that brought this situation to a head. Rather than bringing all CCAs down to the lowest common denominator, it would make sense to restore public funding to previous levels, and to provide extra help to those community centres that have problems. The City must also recognize and appreciate the motivation of the volunteers who run the CCAs. The top-down approach now being attempted will result in fewer services, less motivation, and higher costs. We discourage any further erosion of Park Board autonomy or centralization of power to the City Manager and Council.

Recent community meetings in Kerrisdale and Killarney show the strong community support for the CCAs under the current model. Many speakers confirmed this. For example, Ainslie Kwan, President of the Killarney Community Centre Society, makes a good case for the CCAs ( (11 minutes).

Vancouver has one of the best community centre systems in the world. This is due in large part to improvements and innovations initiated by individual CCAs that were subsequently adopted by other centres. Centralized control over revenue and programming would cramp diversity and creativity, crippling our ability to adapt and serve the evolving needs of our neighbourhoods and the city as a whole.

NSV believes in having decision-making done as close to the community as possible. We believe in grassroots, neighbourhood-based civic government. We encourage the City and Park Board to respect neighbourhoods, and urge the City and Park Board to work in good faith with the Community Centre Associations to find mutually acceptable solutions.

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver
Steering Committee


NOTE that the Parks Board has set an “emergency meeting” Monday, February 4, 2013 at the West End Community Centre. The agenda is here in PDF download. The Parks Board released its presentation online on the “Community Centre Association Partnership Agreement” here in PDF download. Starting on page 20 the report recommends the Park Board / City Hall takeover of all CC programming and finances. Though not stated on the agenda, we have heard, unconfirmed, that the Parks Board intends to do a final vote this very night. The Parks Board proposals are a fundamental change in the operation of the City and the Board and deserve everyone’s attention.

NOTE also that where we say that Vancouver has one of the best community centre systems in the world, this is due in large part to improvements and innovations initiated by individual CCAs that were subsequently adopted by other centres. Centralized control over revenue and programming would cramp diversity and creativity, crippling our ability to adapt and serve the evolving needs of our neighbourhoods and the city as a whole.

VOTE in the Vancouver Courier poll on this topic (look to centre of page, a few inches down from top).

Posted in Uncategorized |

A busy year ahead, upcoming items of interest in 2013, Waldorf

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver wishes Vancouver a wonderful 2013. On January 15, in “Is saving the Waldorf a first step to preserving both the city’s body and soul?” Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham refers to new alliances being created by NSV. Stay tuned for a busy year in civic affairs. Here are just a few of the issues on the radar for Vancouver in the coming months.

Everyone is encouraged to watch these carefully and let our officials know what you think:

  1. Community Plan processes are now underway in four neighbourhoods (Downtown Eastside, Grandview-Woodland, Marpole, and the West End). The City should make a greater effort to raise public awareness of the details and importance of these processes. Citizens should get more involved. Council decisions made later this year will affect civic finances and tax bills and guide change in our neighbourhoods for the next several decades. This administration is far too close to the real estate development industry, which provides much of their political funding. Without sufficient engagement and pushback from citizens the new Community Plans will be tailored to primarily serve those interests.
  2. In December the public heard for the first time about plans by city manager Penny Ballem to unilaterally dictate new operating “agreements” between the Parks Board and the Community Centre Associations (CCA). The purpose of this unprecedented attack on the authority of the Parks Board and the locally elected CCA boards is to gain control of funds raised by the CCAs and revenues generated by the centres. Community centre facilities and programs are of vital importance. Instead of undercutting local initiative by confiscating the CCA’s well-managed funds for redistribution or for other purposes, Council and Parks Board should help all CCAs obtain sufficient resources to serve the needs of their neighbourhoods. This is yet another example of an administration that has steadily centralized control in the hands of a few while reducing transparency, accountability and meaningful public involvement in decision making. Citizens must actively oppose this trend. NSV is committed to the restoration of civic democracy in Vancouver .
  3. By the end of July, Vancouver City Council must adopt a “Regional Context Statement” (a detailed land-use plan) that by law must comply with Metro Vancouver’s new “Regional Growth Strategy.” Vancouver citizens have heard nothing about this RCS yet, and media are not giving it attention, but we believe that already last year, City staff and Council were slotting pieces into place without telling the public what’s really going on — the work of the Mayor’s Task Force Force on Housing Affordability, the “Interim” Rezoning Policy affecting all arterial streets in Vancouver, the Transportation 2040 plan, the Norquay neighbourhood planning process (new zoning bylaws will be used as a precedent, cookie cutter for all of Vancouver), and the four community planning processes now underway. This violates the spirit and policies of CityPlan.
Posted in Uncategorized |

Future of Vancouver event summary, December 5, 2012

Thank you to all who attended the NSV “The Future of Vancouver” event at the Hollywood Theatre on December 5, 2012. A report is posted on the NSV website here, including video and selected transcripts.

Jak King, a published historian, gave the opening, followed by Elizabeth Murphy, who presented a slide presentation detailing concrete examples the current crisis in originating at Vancouver City Hall. Giving context to the current crisis, Elizabeth introduced former city councillors (Jonathan Baker, Margeurite Ford and Darlene Marzari) who then spoke. They were with The Electors Action Movement (TEAM), which existed from 1968 to the mid-1980s and set in place many policies that have helped make Vancouver the liveable city it is today. This legacy includes respecting community and neighbourhood input to decision-making in Vancouver, stopping the freeway and urban renewal development in Strathcona, creating the Property Endowment Fund, building social housing, and creating the view corridors, among many other things. However, these legacies are currently being dismantled.

Next came speakers on what’s wrong with City Hall today and how it can be fixed. Green City Councillor Adrian Carr, now 12 months into her first term on Council, gave concrete and recent examples of how the current majority at City Hall has been eroding democracy in Vancouver. Ned Jacobs spoke about systemic conflicts of interest with the NPA and Vision Vancouver depending so heavily on corporate donations from the development industry. David Chudnovsky, on the executive committee of the Coalition of Progressive Electors gave the COPE perspective. indicating that current regime could do a much better job of addressing housing affordability, and that the influence of big money must be eliminated from local politics. Terry Martin spoke about NSV’s intent to run a winning slate for the November 2014 election. Randy Helten moderated the speakers, and the open mic session.

The messages of the evening are powerful. Major changes are needed in Vancouver.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Transportation 2040 report fatally flawed: Funding model, land-use planning strategy take power from municipality (E. Murphy, Vancouver Sun, 21-Nov-2012)

Caption: This map of rapid transit station areas and corridors appears in Appendix A of the City of Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 Report to Council of Oct. 30, 2012. The final report map defines rapid transit station areas and future rapid transit corridors, covering the majority of the surrounding neighbourhoods for potential transit-oriented development. This was not in the draft for consultation.

Transportation 2040 report fatally flawed : Both the funding model and land-use planning strategy take power away from municipality

By Elizabeth Murphy, op ed on November 21, 2012, in the Vancouver Sun. 

This story appeared on 21-Nov-2012 as an op ed in the Vancouver Sun, written by Elizabeth Murphy, an urban affairs commentator. She was formerly a property development officer for the City of Vancouver’s housing and properties department, senior development officer for BC Housing and private-sector project manager. Read full story here. Below is opening of the article, at at bottom are references not included in the print or online version.

The City of Vancouver recently approved the city staff policy report on Transportation 2040. Although presented as a transportation policy document, it is in fact the long-term land-use plan that will direct future development and inform the upcoming regional context statement required under the regional growth strategy.

Public transit is a very important part of the city’s infrastructure and needs to be expanded. However, the city’s transportation policy has been transformed into a development regime and cash cow for TransLink at city taxpayer expense.

In summary, Transportation 2040 is not about transportation, affordability or environmental sustainability.

Transportation 2040 is:

  • Based on the flawed “Hong Kong model” of funding transit with development, thus creating a provincial tax grab on civic taxpayers with a complicit city hall that is not looking out for the civic public interest; and
  •  A land-use plan with provincial override of civic land-use authority.

Transit-oriented development has merit. However, the location and scale of development should be under the full control of the city and in context with local community plans. Civic developments should never be dictated by the province to fund TransLink or any other provincial responsibilities.

These two aspects of the plan are explained as follows:


The city’s Transportation 2040 is a major step in a big development play started by the BC Liberals under Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon shortly after they were elected a decade ago. Their objective was to use the Hong Kong model of funding transit with development. This model is continuing under Premier Christy Clark.

The Hong Kong model means TransLink can fund transit through buying land and entering into Public-Private-Partnerships (P3s) using the land lift (property value increases) from rezoning or charge fees on any development within an area near transit stations.

Read full story here.


RELATED REFERENCES (not included in print or online version in the Vancouver Sun.)

“Vancouver Transportation 2040″ – Final Oct. 30, 2012

(This article’s original map can be accessed from this link.)

Vancouver Sun – Translink’s $1.5B real estate empire (19-Mar-2008)
Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority is launching a real estate division that could produce up to $1.5 billion in revenue over the next 10 years, modelled on an agency that has reshaped Hong Kong


Posted in Uncategorized |

Opinion: New policies will not make Vancouver housing affordable – Rezoning concepts from Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Task Force on Housing are more likely to put existing older units at risk of demolition (Elizabeth Murphy, in Vancouver Sun, 18-Oct-2012)

By Elizabeth Murphy, Special to The Vancouver Sun

Excerpt: Improving housing affordability and building rentals are important priorities. However, rezoning policies resulting from the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability will not provide affordable housing. The policies will instead increase inflationary land speculation, which is the main cause of the affordability crisis in Vancouver, and will put existing older affordable rentals at risk of demolition.

Vision’s Mayor and Council approved the city-wide rezoning policies on October 3. They were immediately implemented without any public consultation on these specific initiatives. (The policies were opposed by Councillors Carr, Affleck and Ball after Carr’s motion to delay for public consultation was voted down by Vision.)

Read more:

Orange coloured areas on the airphoto illustrate the 100m zone impacted around arterials (as specified in the Interim Rezoning Policy). Map courtesy of, please click to enlarge.


Elizabeth Murphy is a former property development officer for the City of Vancouver’s Housing & Properties Department; she ran for councillor with Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) in the 2011 Vancouver civic election.

Posted in Uncategorized |

“Don’t rush, Mayor Gregor”: Community leaders make urgent appeal on Housing Affordability Task Force major land use policies

(Vancouver, October 2, 2012) Nearly thirty prominent community leaders and groups today sent a joint letter (MTF Housing – Neighbourhood Group letter – 1-Oct-2012) to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Council with the following message: We are requesting that the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability (MTF) – Final Report to Council Oct. 2, 2012 be accepted for information only and that Council NOT approve any of the recommendations. A more comprehensive and meaningful consultation process is required.

The letter carries the names of signatories, and an attachment with concerns about the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, and rationale for the statement. Land-use policy commentator Elizabeth Murphy said, “Top-down approaches like this undermine the community planning process. This will profoundly affect the entire city and needs much more consideration of all the issues.”


October 1, 2012

Mayor Robertson and Councillors
City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors,

Re: Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability (MTF) – Final Report Oct. 2, 2012

We are requesting that the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability (MTF) – Final Report to Council Oct. 2, 2012 be accepted for information only and that Council NOT approve any of the recommendations.

A more comprehensive and meaningful consultation process is required.

Supporting Groups or individuals:

  • Arbutus Ridge Community Association
  • Arbutus Ridge/Kerrisdale/Shaughnessy CityPlan Vision Impl. Committee (ARKS), Jim Hall, Chair **
  • ARKS Vision Housing Sub-Committee, Katherine Reichert, Chair **
  • Downtown Eastside – Carnagie Community Action Project
  • Dunbar, Linda MacAdam **
  • False Creek Residents Association
  • Grandview Process Advisory and Civic Engagement Group (PACE), Bruce McDonald **
  • Grandview Heritage Group, Jak King **
  • Grandview Woodlands, Tom Durrie **
  • Grandview Woodlands, Petronella Vander Valk **
  • Kitsilano Arbutus Residents. Association (KARA)
  • Kitsilano Point Residents. Association, Lynn Kent **
  • Marpole Oakridge Area Council Society, Gundrun Langolf **
  • Mount Pleasant Implementation Committee (MPIC), Grace Mackenzie **
  • Norquay, Joseph Jones **
  • North West Point Grey Home Owners. Association
  • Residents Association Mount Pleasant (RAMP)
  • Riley Park / South Cambie CityPlan Vision Implementation Committee (RPSC), Allan Buium, Chair **
  • Riley Park / South Cambie CityPlan Vision Implementation Committee (RPSC), Ned Jacobs **
  • Shaughnessy Heights Property Owners Association (SHPOA)
  • Shannon Mews Neighbours Association (SMNA), John Brimacombe **
  • Upper Kitsilano Residents Association
  • Victoria Park Group . Gail Mountain **
  • Victoria Fraserview Killarney CityPlan Committee (VFK), George Grant **
  • West End, Randy Helten**
  • West Kitsilano Residents Association
  • West Point Grey CityPlan Vision Community Liaison Group (WPG-CLG)

** Signed as an individual only (insufficient time to consult with full group)

cc – Summary attachment


Summary attachment:

Three working days since the report was made public is not enough time for the general public or Councillors to consider the sweeping recommendations in the staff report. The recommendations include broad policy changes for the City of Vancouver affecting land use, zoning, density, civic finances, and much more. The Task Force and mainstream media have so far completely failed to provide the public a satisfactory analysis of the recommendations and their implications. Please see the attached summary for details.

We state at the outset that we support efforts to make Vancouver more affordable to live in, including affordable rentals. But it is not acceptable for Council to approve the MTF recommendations first, and then later go out to consult with the public after the policies are already adopted with directions to staff. Consultation should occur before, not after, adopting the recommendations.

We have many concerns about an unsatisfactory process the Task Force portrays as “consultation.” The interim report released in June did not have much detail about what was proposed and cannot be a basis for consultation on the final report. As one example of poor consultation practice, the “SFU Carbon Talks” was in fact strongly biased and appears designed to manufacture the appearance of consent. The Task Force report refers to surveys by a firm named Place Speak as “consultation,” but there are many privacy and security issues that make using a private company for the city’s consultation process very problematic. Place Speak should not to be relied upon as a representation of public opinion.

The MTF recommendations are mostly the implementation of Sam Sullivan’s EcoDensity initiative, which Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vision Council criticized and promised to address before and after their election win in 2008. EcoDensity was strongly opposed by the public. At the Heritage Hall neighbourhood event December 10, 2008 Mayor Robertson acknowledged that EcoDensity was not a good idea and praised the neighbourhoods for their effective opposition. But the Mayor’s Task Force recommendations are in reality the implementation of EcoDensity. (See video of Mayor)

Both the MTF Priority Actions for Immediate Implementation and the Additional Actions for Implementation will have broad impacts across the city. None of  the Task Force recommendations should be approved because there has not been meaningful broad public discussion or demonstrated majority public support.

The MTF recommendations disregards CityPlan which was an award-winning process that invested millions of dollars of tax-payers’ money and years of community volunteer involvement. To abandon CityPlan without meaningful public discussion or support would be a violation of the public trust. CityPlan Visions are no longer on the City’s new website. The Community Visions and Local Area Plans should not be disregarded. Vancouver has been renowned for participatory planning, but the MTF shows how the city is replacing participatory planning with top-down development-oriented policies that override the community.


Some of the MTF recommendations and our concerns are as follows.

  • MTF overrides existing neighbourhood plans without any legitimate public process.
  • MTF undermines the current Community Plan processes in the West End, Grandview and Marpole by imposing MTF recommendations without a public process such as Action 1 and the “Thin Streets” concept.

Specific Example:

MTF Action 1: Implement an Interim Rezoning Policy that increases affordable housing choices across Vancouver’s neighbourhoods

1.1 Affordability

We question that the recommendations will provide affordability. There is no economic analysis  provided to show how the proposals would be  affordable.

1.2 Form of Development/Location

Subject to urban design performance (including consideration of shadow analysis, view impacts, frontage length, building massing, setbacks, etc.) and demonstration of a degree of community support, projects that would be considered are:

  • Within approximately 100 metres of an arterial street (i.e. 1.5 blocks), ground-oriented forms up to a maximum of 3.5 storeys, which is generally sufficient height to include small house/duplexes, traditional row houses, stacked townhouses and courtyard row houses.
  • Fronting on arterials that are well served by transit and within close proximity (i.e. a five minute walk or 500 metres) of identified neighbourhood centres and local shopping areas, mid-rise forms up to a maximum of 6 storeys

We object most to this proposal. This action is effectively an upzoning without any public consultation or public hearing for this broad reaching policy that will transform Vancouver’s neighbourhoods and override existing community plans and processes. This affects all arterials for 3.5 storeys back for 100 m each side and   6 storeys within 500 m of centres, not just in existing commercial zones. This affects most of the city. These kinds of decisions should be determined by the neighbourhoods if they support this form of development and if so where it should go. This should not be imposed.

 General Concerns:

  • These proposed actions have not been thought through to consider all the points of view and the many unintended consequences.
  • There is a lack of due process, public consultation, transparency, accountability and financial analysis.
  • The Mayor’s Task force is mostly composed of appointed development industry-related individuals, some of whom may have a conflict of interest as they could benefit from the recommendations.
  • The MTF recommendations override existing community plans and undermines the community plans currently in process.
  • The “Thin Streets” proposal to build on city street and utility servicing right of ways is problematic.

We request that the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability (MTF) – Final Report to Council Oct. 2, 2012 be accepted for information only and that Council NOT approve any of the recommendations at this time. A more comprehensive and meaningful consultation process is required.

Posted in Uncategorized |

Not so fast please: NSV asks Mayor NOT to adopt Housing Affordability Task Force recommendations without proper public review

Citing concerns about Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability, City Council should receive but NOT immediately approve recommendations, says NSV

Alerted to news that Vancouver City Council is expected to receive the final report of the Task Force on October 2, 2012, Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver wrote to Mayor and Council today to ask them NOT to immediately adopt the recommendations, which the public has not yet seen. The exact content of recommendations is still unknown  to the public, but could have far-reaching implications for the future of Vancouver. Instead, Council should receive the report for information only, and permit adequate time for public review. Download letter with appendices: NSV – Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability-Sept 24-2012

Letter follows, with appendices.

September 24, 2012                                                                          

Mayor Robertson and Councillors, City of Vancouver
453 West 12 Avenue, Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1V4

Dear Mayor Robertson and Councillors,

Re: Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability

Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) has been made aware that the final report of the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability will go to Vancouver City Council as soon as October 2, 2012. The proposed final report has not yet been made public, so we make our comments based on the Interim Report submitted to Council June 27, 2012.

When the next report goes to City Council we urge you to receive it for information only, and ask that you do not immediately approve of any of its recommendations. There has not yet been meaningful discussion and public consultation on these far-reaching recommendations.

While making housing more affordable in Vancouver is a crucial objective, and some of the Task Force recommendations are worthy of consideration, NSV remains concerned about many aspects of the interim report and the Task Force’s process. The implications of this report are enormous for the City’s future finances, livability, character, and many other impacts on its citizens. We are not confident that potential unintended consequences have been adequately explored and addressed.

Generally, it seems that the primary recommendations are geared towards increasing supply of housing. This approach is similar to the EcoDensity policy first proposed in 2007 against strong public opposition, except that the new recommendations paint the discussion with the brush of “affordability.” But no one has adequately proven that unconditionally increasing density results in more affordability. In fact many of world’s densest cities also happen to be the most expensive. New York and Hong Kong are two examples. We believe that increasing housing supply is only one consideration, with a broader discussion required about this and other options as well.

As just one example of problems with the Task Force consultation process to date, please see Appendix A, which outlines our concerns about the SFU / City Dialogue. Appendix B includes concerns NSV previously raised but have not been addressed to date.

In conclusion, a broader and more detailed public consultation and discussion is required before policy directions are given or specific recommendations adopted by City Council. Therefore, we ask City Council to receive the upcoming report for information only.

The Steering Committee
Neighbourhoods for a SustainableVancouver
Group contact email:

cc – The Mayor’s task Force on Housing Affordability, 
       City Manager, Manager of Housing, Manager of Planning and Development 


Appendix A, NSV to Vancouver Mayor and Council, September 2012

Comments on SFU / City Dialogue:

We would like to specifically address the SFU Centre for Dialogue and the City of Vancouver held dialogue on June 5, 2012 called Density in a City of Neighbourhoods.

The report of the dialogue is important because it is being fed into the consultation on the Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability. The article below in the Vancouver Sun Saturday September 15, 2012 refers to this dialogue. A number of our network attended and recall things much differently than presented by this article and the SFU/City of Vancouver report.

Below attached are links to the discussion guide written by Gordon Price and the dialogue report.

Note that the report tried to give the impression that community activists in each neighbourhood attended.  Although some participants were active community members, most were from industry or special interest.

For example, one of the people listed in the preliminary SFU participant list from Kitsilano was Prof. Penny Gurstein, Director of School of Community and Regional Planning, UBC. This was raised as a potential conflict of interest and she was withdrawn.

SFU also insisted on Chatham House Rule: “participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.” All that was reported was the name of the neighbourhood and the number of participants from that neighbourhood, which gave the false impression participation was community based.

For instance, the Vancouver Sun said:

“City of Vancouver planners sat down a couple of months ago at a daylong session with 20 citizens who are involved in their respective neighbourhoods across the city to attempt to initiative this kind of dialogue around grappling with how to address density from a neighbour-hood perspective… It was courageous of the conveners – SFU’s Centre for Dialogue and a number of other SFU partners, together with the city – to try bring together neighbour-hood activists to talk about density. The magic seemed to come from the orientation of the dialogue: a big-picture look at the city as a whole, where participants were encouraged to take a step back from their neighbourhood viewpoints.”

However, this was far from the facts. The discussion guide was so biased and full of inaccurate information, the proposed participant from Dunbar withdrew. Several others thought of doing so as well but were persuaded to participate.

Attempts were made to copy and paste examples from the discussion guide but the settings do not allow it. Instead we have copied a quote from the Sun article:

‘Price’s paper also reminded participants that even when Vancouver has undergone change at a scale that would be unacceptable today, like the transformation of the West End in the 1960s, we have been able to introduce new forms of housing, absorb growth, mitigate the impacts and create a livable neighbourhood residents love.

“We tend to assimilate it and then when it’s threatened with further change, want it declared heritage,” Price reminded us of this irony.’

The discussion guide takes the position that the West End is the model for the future of the entire city. But at the same time Price neglects to explain that the reason the West End is at all as liveable as it is today is because of the design guidelines such as tower separation requirements that preserved much of the original neighbourhood based on the request by the community in the 1970’s.

And Price advocates removing those guidelines to allow the process of complete transformation of the West End to tower forms to happen while condemning anyone who supports existing heritage.

The report suggests that much of the aversion to density is based on emotional values rather than facts. But this a misrepresentation. The sticky-notes that were placed under “values” have not been fully reported out and most would have been better described under “physical” or any of the other categories.

In spite of the flawed process, some worthwhile discussion did happen. However, we want it on the record that NSV fundamentally disagrees with the process of engagement undertaken, the biased discussion guide and with the dialogue report conclusions as presented.

This is just one of many examples of how public consultation is more about creating the appearance of consultation rather than meaningful related discussion by an informed community.

For your reference:

Gordon Price’s Discussion Guide:

Carbon Talks Density Dialogue Report:

Vancouver Sun – Sept. 15, 2012 – Bob Ransford
Open talk needed when it comes to the ‘D’ word
Residents need to embrace big picture of development


Appendix B

The following are the NSV preliminary comments and concerns we raised in our previous letter dated June 27, 2012, which have not been addressed to date:

MTF Interim Report Recommendation 1: Increase supply and diversity of affordable housing.

We note that the main focus of the report is on supply. However, there are many influences on affordability and simply increasing supply may not solve the problem.

In order to realistically assess the issue of housing supply, the City should immediately publish the existing zoned capacity of the potential city-wide units and population that is currently built and is yet to be developed in each type of zoning, with a city-wide total and by neighbourhood. Staff was directed by Council to provide this information months ago, yet it still is not available.

According to The Province (Vancouver sprouting cranes, June 22, 2012), there are 16 condo towers under construction and 67 proposed high-rises under consideration (including mixed-use commercial) in the City of Vancouver. With this and all the condos built over the last decade, one has to wonder why that huge increase in supply  is not being reflected in reduced prices. Efforts should be made to analyze this and the 22,000 vacant and foreign held units identified in the 2011 census.

In fact increasing development is inflating development pressures and speculative inflation, such as we are seeing in the Cambie Corridor since that planning process was initiated.

There are currently completed CityPlan Community Visions in each of the single-family neighbourhoods that identify potentials for more housing choice. CityPlan also has it in the Terms of Reference to implement those housing types through a community-based process. However, the Neighbourhood Centre’s Program undermines that process as demonstrated by the unsupported policy plan for Norquay. The failed Neighbourhood Centres Program should not be use as an example or model for implementing housing variety. Instead, work with each neighbourhood to implement their Community Vision through a CityPlan model.

Increasing supply over time should be in the scale and character of each individual neighbourhood. New development should not increase demolition of the older more affordable buildings that can be adaptively reused to increase secondary suite rentals and fixer-uppers.


MTF Interim Report Recommendation 2: Enhance the City’s and the community’s capacity to deliver affordable rental and social housing.

Quote from report: “Create a new City-owned entity to deliver affordable rental and social housing by using City lands. Mobilize the community to support affordable housing through community land trusts and alternative financing models.”

This has been tried before and failed. VLC Properties Ltd. produced very few rentals and eventually became a condo development company called Concert Properties. The City already has a land trust called the Property Endowment Fund and a staffed department to administer it.

Creating another level of bureaucracy that is managed by an unelected appointed board that has effective control of city owned land, city funding and project approval authority, could be extremely problematic with potential conflict of interest issues.

It is unclear how this would work if the City retains ownership of the land and a development partner had to finance the project without being able to use the title to the land for financing.

Careful consideration should be given before using the City’s assets in this way. Possibly it should go to referendum.


MTF Interim Report Recommendation 3: Protect existing social and affordable rental housing and explore opportunities to renew and expand the stock.

Protection and improvement of existing rentals is an important goal.

However, there are problems with the Rate of Change bylaw that need to be resolved since it does not actually protect existing rentals. The requirement to replace rentals with 1:1 presently does not require the units to be the same size or have any restrictions on rental rates. If existing rentals are too severely redeveloped, they will result in displacement and be just as unaffordable as new development. This could very easily turn into City-sanctioned renoviction.

Under current Rate of Change, existing larger rental units could be reduced to as small as 320 sq. ft. Often smaller size is how “affordability” is defined by the City – even though these small units may be significantly more costly per square foot than the ones they replace. It also could involve significant density bonuses that would make resulting buildings out of scale with the surrounding neighbourhood.

The key to making this work would be making the incentives to upgrade a building modest, such as allowing the expansion of the penthouse level to be larger with roof decks. Many older rental buildings only have a small penthouse because of regulations in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The incentives should be specific options not based on proforma which gets distorted.

Also, there would need to be revisions to the Rate of Change bylaws so that existing rental units could not be substantially reduced in size. Existing tenants should be able to reoccupy their suite after renovation for similar rents with a modest increase in rent to reflect costs over time.

MTF Interim Report Recommendation 4: Streamline and create more certainty and clarity in the regulatory process and improve public engagement processes.

These are worthy goals. Bringing certainty to the CAC process is a good thing as long as development contributes to amenities that are needed to service the increased population. As it is now, funds from development fees to the City only covers a small portion of the capital and operating costs to service the development. The rest is subsidized through property taxes.

The report recommendation of inclusionary zoning is essentially what was specified under further work as part of Secured Market Rental Housing Policy, or Son of STIR, which stated rentals could “be implemented through changes to the Zoning and Development By-law (e.g. adding a provision for density bonusing for market rental housing in district schedules or relaxations of regulations to allow additional height and/or density for market rental housing.)

Again “the devil is in the details,” and this recommendation could be problematic. It could result in large rental projects all over the city without requiring a rezoning – creating the potential for major conflicts between developers, neighbourhoods and City Hall, as we have witness in an example like the current application at 1401 Comox for a 22-storey tower with the developer seeking dramatic increases in height and density.

Or, as proposed under the successor to the STIR program, developers may seek to redevelop RT(multi-unit) zones on arterials as apartment buildings based on RM4-N without rezoning as long as they are market rentals. A negative outcome could be the loss of existing rental units in heritage/character buildings.

These problems are just a few examples, and they could be avoided if the incentives were modest and reasonably placed. For instance, if C2 zones allowed new development to add one storey of rentals to the 3 storeys of residential strata currently allowed above one storey of commercial for 5 storeys total, that may be acceptable in some locations.

But if pro formas are used to assess the incentive, the scale will be too big because negotiated bonuses tend to be too rich in favour of the developer. If prescriptive methods are used instead, any prescriptive increases should be modest, site appropriate and community supported.

Regarding the composition of the Task Force, we are concerned also about the participants of the Mayor’s task Force being heavily weighted towards the development industry whose interest is generally about profit not affordability, sustainability, or the public good. More inclusive participation would result in more balanced results. Checks and balances are essential.


Posted in Uncategorized |

Opinion: Protect green zone to stop sprawl — Vancouver needs a more balanced approach to manage growth, affordability (Elizabeth Murphy, in Vancouver Sun, 18-Sept-2012)


Excerpt: Urban sprawl will not be contained until there is legislation that better prevents development into the green zones of agricultural, forested and conservation areas.

Some have argued that we need to dramatically increase growth and density in urban areas to stop urban sprawl. However, without stabilizing legislation, urban sprawl will actually increase as more development pressure is placed on urban areas.

Read more:

Elizabeth Murphy is a former property development officer for the City of Vancouver’s Housing & Properties Department; she ran for councillor with Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) in the 2011 Vancouver civic election.

Posted in Uncategorized |