Following is the submission from our spokesperson (Fred Dawkins) at the OCP Public Hearing. The OCP passed, as expected, by a 4-3 vote with Councillors Bell, Bookham and Clark opposed.
Video link is here: http://www.cnv.org/2015CouncilVideos – Fred spoke at the 18:00 mark.
Public input – OCP public hearing – 3 March 2015
I am Fred Dawkins, 827 West 19th, representing North Van City Voices
This proposed OCP is a one-legged stool. Virtually every goal, every solution, is based on densification. Ramping up the population by building more and more condos is presented as the magic bullet that will solve everything.
Do we need better transit? Cram in more people, and better transit will magically happen. Do we aspire to be a greener community and reduce carbon emissions? Increase density, and carbon output per person will automatically be lower. We want affordable housing? Build lots more condos, that’s bound to make housing cheaper, right? Safer streets? A more vibrant cultural scene? Job creation? Rental housing? All of these goals will somehow be met by just cramming more people into our little enclave. How we get the infrastructure and services needed to accommodate that rapid population growth, we’ll figure out later.
It reminds me of the South Park episode about the underpants gnomes, and their 3-part strategy for getting rich. In this case it’s Step 1, build lots of condos. Step 2, [mumble/shrug]. Step 3, enjoy a more livable, sustainable community where everyone bikes to work. Hurrah!
It’s all smoke and mirrors, because at the end of the day, as the mayor’s slate has demonstrated repeatedly, most recently with the twin towers at 161 East Keith, Council can ignore the OCP anytime they wish, using density bonusing and a sham public consultation process to push through large developments that exceed existing guidelines. But even if they don’t override it, this new OCP provides plenty of wriggle room for developers and their allies on council.
To give just one example of the vague justifications behind the proposed OCP: We’ve been told from the start of the City Shaping process that under the Regional Growth Strategy the City has committed to accommodate about 20,000 new residents between 2011 and 2041, which would be achieved by building 6,000 more housing units. Our group, Voices, pointed out that starting from the 2011 baseline, the City already has about 5,000 housing units in the development pipeline. The response we got from planning staff was, “Oh, that 6,000 unit projection is too low, we’re going to be building mostly condos, so the number of people per housing unit will be lower, therefore we’ll need more
than 6,000 units to accommodate our projected population.”
Then in January, staff came up with a new set of projections, which Council approved and were submitted to Metro, and are now part of the proposed OCP. When we questioned these revised numbers, Mr. Penway replied that because of the changes Council recently voted for, to add more density to the East 3rd area and parts of the Lonsdale corridor, they had to increase the number of projected housing units. You can see the revised table in the Appendix of the revised OCP.
The number of new housing units projected to be built by 2041 has grown from 6,000 in the original estimate, to 10,620. The new table focuses on projected growth in just 3 areas – East 3rd, Lonsdale and Marine – but if you do the arithmetic with the percentages provided, they add up to a total city population of 70,000, not the 68,000 that the city committed to with Metro and has been included in all previous estimates till now. By the way, that’s a 92% increase from the 2011 census.
Nevertheless, with 5,000 units already in the pipeline, we’re almost halfway to even that expanded 2041 projection. So why the rush to ramp up development?
Doing some more math, we see our planners estimate that the housing projected to be built in this city over the next 25 years will house an average of 1.6 people per unit. In other words, a great many of these new units will house just one person. We’re apparently looking at a future where most new homes in the city will be high-rises occupied by singles and childless couples. So much for promoting a diverse mix of housing types, and finding places for families.
But, this is all just fun with numbers. Planners can tweak the numbers any way that’s needed to justify continued densification. And no matter what anyone says here today, this OCP will be voted in by the Mayor and his slate on Council. He has promises to keep, primarily to the developers who funded his election campaign, and this OCP provides all the flexibility he needs to fulfill those promises. But that flexibility just encourages spot zoning, which fuels land speculation. It provides no assurance of future livability for current homeowners who aren’t interested in cashing out and moving away. Citizens deserve better than this.