Following is the script for our delegation to Council last night:
NVCV delegation to NV City Council, 28 April 2014
My name is Fred Dawkins, I live on West 19th in the City of North Vancouver, and I’m here on behalf of North Van City Voices to discuss City Shaping and the draft Official Community Plan.
First, we wish to commend this Council for extending the public input into the draft OCP by adding four more town hall meetings to the process. The turnout at these well-advertised meetings was impressive, the last one was standing room only. And residents had a lot to say about the future of their community, which I’ll get to in a moment.
First, though, let’s recap how we got to this point with City Shaping.
In July 2011 the City of North Vancouver signed on to the Greater Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. As part of the strategy’s projections of anticipated growth in the region, the City set population targets up to 2041, setting a goal of 1.3% growth per year for the next 20 years,
Also in 2011, the City launched the City Shaping process to involve the community in developing a new OCP. In our view, the process was one long sales pitch for increased density as the answer to all of our aspirations. We were told the RGS population targets were less an estimate than a commitment we had to achieve. And with no space to expand outward, our little city had to increase density. But that was OK, we were told, because higher density would be better for the environment, would improve transportation, enhance economic development, support more community amenities, make housing more affordable and our streets safer and more vibrant, and so on. As we have stated in previous presentations, all of those assumptions are at least debateable.
Nevertheless, this scenario was pitched at us through public workshops that basically steered us toward the inevitability of a much denser community. The number of people who participated in these workshops or submitted online comments was relatively small. It was not a representative sampling.
Only in this last phase of public consultation – the series of town hall meetings – was there any large-scale public feedback. This was when city residents appeared to wake up to what is being proposed, and came out to learn more. Attendance at all 4 meetings was far beyond anything we saw in the earlier workshops.
And those of you on Council who sat in on these gatherings heard speaker after speaker expressing concerns about the prospect of rapid densification. People expressed concerns about traffic, lack of adequate transit, the loss of views and green space, civic infrastructure lagging behind the pace of development, lack of adequate parks and community amenities, and many other quality of life issues.
We trust that planning staff was paying attention, and that they will bring forward an amended draft OCP that is more in tune with the desires of residents than the last draft we saw.
What else has been happening while we have been working on a new OCP? Lots of construction, especially, lots of new condos. From the mid-2011 baseline, we have seen a raft of new residential and mixed-use projects built, started, approved, or in the pipeline — to the extent that, adding up all the new housing units built or on the way, we already have enough to surpass our 2021 RGS growth target and are heading toward the 2031 target. All this under the existing OCP, although it should be noted that 15 of these projects required Council to approve an OCP amendment.
So the obvious question – with all this rapid growth occurring under the existing OCP, why does the draft OCP propose a further increase in allowable density, in virtually every part of the city? In what way is this accelerated growth needed?
Let’s be clear – we recognize that the city will grow. We’re not opposed to all development. Prudent, managed growth, with services and amenities keeping pace with the population, is what we advocate. That’s not what we’re seeing now, and not what the current draft OCP is pointing to. Instead, we are seeing a headlong rush toward far greater density and crowding than we can handle as a
community. We’ve seen our light industrial land eroded. With all the development sprouting up along the Marine Drive corridor – including the District part – traffic on that key artery is getting worse by the week, and many of those units are not even occupied yet. There’s hardly a block in the city without a “condos for sale” or “commercial space to lease” sign – isn’t it possible we’re building too fast?
The draft is long on platitudes about livable communities and vibrant streetscapes, but where are the plans for ensuring amenities and infrastructure keep up with population growth? Public art and ferris wheels are nice, but their lack is the least of our problems. What’s to be done about traffic? Where will our new parks come from? What’s to be done about Harry Jerome and our overall shortage of recreation facilities? How will an east-west transit corridor do anything to help commuters who have to leave the North Shore for work every day across our three overloaded crossings? What’s the strategy for preserving our stock of affordable rental housing, which we all know is at risk to future condo development?
We recognize that ultimately the OCP is only a guide. It is supposed to provide residents some assurance about the future, but in reality council can override it at any time – as I mentioned, 15 times in less than 3 years, including almost all the major condo projects. Whatever OCP we end up with, what’s really needed is leadership from a council with a long-term vision of what city residents need. Not piecemeal, ad hoc development driven by the latest developer to come to you with a proposal. You are in charge. We urge you to take a step back and reconsider the pace of development in our city, for the sake of all the people who live here instead of in the West End or Metrotown, because we love this special place.
I conclude with a question for you, Your Worship, to direct to the appropriate staff member. Is the planning staff now revising the draft OCP to reflect the public input provided by those town hall meetings? Will we see actual changes in the new draft?
[If not, why not, or when?]
This was followed by some discussion, and information that a revised draft of the OCP will be presented to Council next Monday, May 5th.
Video link is available at: