Letter to North Shore News (not yet published):
Time to Take Back Our City
The current City of North Vancouver ‘Draft Official Community Plan’ should be called the ‘Draft Official Developers Plan’. Density and heights have been increased throughout the City. This plan would see our City turned into another Yaletown throughout the central blocks with increased density and heights in the adjacent blocks plus more suites and coach houses throughout the single family neighbourhoods. This is outrageous when numbers show that our population numbers already exceed the Greater Vancouver planning numbers and we have enough housing units to meet their targets for 2031. It is no wonder we have traffic problems and our hospital is overflowing!
Get informed and give feedback. There are Feedback Forms at City Hall and online at the City website. Question #13 is most important – ‘any additional comments’. The rest of the questions are generalized statements that are hard to disagree with and are slanted towards the desired outcome of approving this plan.
How can we not agree to ‘increasing density along frequent transit corridors’? or to have ‘an accessible and active transportation system’? (However there is no agreement from TransLink to provide any increased bus service and we compete with other municipalities like Surrey who are desperate for more public transit.) (The plan refers to a ‘Frequent Transit Development Area’ – which means increased bus frequency – not any form of rapid transit – not in TransLink’s plans.)
How can we not agree with the goal of a ‘wide range of housing types’? It does not ask about specific neighbourhoods and the substantial changes to the Land Use map and densities in many areas of the city. It does not ask if we agree that there should be more highrise areas with increased density (Floor Space Ratio (FSR) – changed from 2.3 to 3.5; or from 2.6 to 4.0) including the new density cap AND above that – there can be a 20% height increase! As a consequence, this would move the allowable height in specified areas from the current 16 to 19 storeys; and in other areas from the current 18 to as much as 28 storeys.
This plan would incent developers to replace older more affordable buildings with bigger, higher buildings containing smaller, LESS AFFORDABLE units (current projects are selling for $600 or $700/square foot). (Market rentals are about $2 and up/SF/month – $1,400 for 700 square feet.) Highrise construction is the most expensive housing to build –the excavation plus all the steel and concrete for underground parking and the floors above costs huge dollars. Our City already has dozens of units sitting empty down at the waterfront and in new buildings throughout the City. Why would we build more?
We need more liveable, affordable housing. Stop building more highrises and incent buildings that are ground oriented using wood-frame construction of 5 or 6 levels. These could be townhouses, row houses, or medium density buildings. These allow trees and sunlight and fit with our City character.
People looking for housing seem to be seniors wanting to downsize from large homes or young people who want to start a family life on the North Shore. Small units in towers do not provide an attractive or affordable option for either of these groups.
We need to take back this plan and make it a Community Plan based on 2014 population and housing unit numbers. It needs to provide very controlled growth in the type of housing that our community really needs – not controlled by developers. We must live within the constraints of our transportation and hospital facilities and not grow faster than these will support us. If we do this we will have a very liveable community that continues to reflect the character of our City and the rest of the plan objectives can be met. Please give your feedback!