Category Archives: Articles

News – Why Vancouver keeps slipping as Canada’s most liveable city – The Weather Network

The Economist’s ‘Global Liveability Index’ by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) surveys and analyses 140 cities using both objective and subjective measures including qualities they believe to be important to have a nice day.

Source: News – Why Vancouver keeps slipping as Canada’s most liveable city – The Weather Network

Vancouver’s high housing growth rate making homes less affordable | Vancouver Sun

Comment from Voices:  We have made this statement previously to Council about our concern that our excess development (exceeding 2041 regional growth targets in 2017) has not and will not result in ‘more affordable housing’. Elizabeth Murphy concurs with us in this article.  As we have stated below, and we note that the reference to Council* is to the votes cast consistently by the 4-3 block: Mussatto, Back, Buchanan and Keating. 

The building boom continues unabated. There seems to be no limit to this Council’s love of high-density high-rise residential development. As we have documented before, the pace of growth in North Van is already far beyond our commitment under the Regional Growth Strategy. Yet Council * routinely overrides the limits of our Official Community Plan, using density bonuses and transfers to allow ever larger and taller developments. 

Quoting from the article in the Vancouver Sun:

The first job of the next city council should be to revisit all the growth plans and reconsider if this is in the public interest. With all the excess zoning capacity the city already has in the system, there is time to plan this more carefully. The problem is that most of the new construction is unaffordable and involves demolishing the older building stock that former occupants could afford but who are then displaced. More new supply is not making things more affordable — quite the opposite. Vancouver is in an affordability crisis of its own making that requires a rethink of current growth with consideration of all the costs and impacts.  Read more:

Source: Vancouver’s high housing growth rate making homes less affordable | Vancouver Sun

‘Perpetual’ motion to give boost to City of North Van renters

From the North Shore News today:

Ten years isn’t long enough.

That was the verdict July 23 as City of North Vancouver council amended a policy aimed to help lower-income renters get a foothold in the city’s housing market – although not everyone agreed on the timing of the amendment’s implementation.

Currently, if developers want to build a midrise or highrise that’s bigger or denser than envisioned by city guidelines, city council only approves the project on the condition the developer rents 10 per cent of the building’s new units at 10 per cent below market rates for at least 10 years.

But as of Jan. 1, 2019, that policy will be changed to maintain that 10 per cent discount in perpetuity.

While council concurred on the merits of the amendment, they disagreed on its execution, with Coun. Don Bell pushing to implement the revised policy on Sept. 1.

“I would hate to see a flood of applications come in expecting to have the lower amount,” he said. Bell emphasized that currently, if renters move out of their discounted apartments within a decade, “the rents will jump up and we’ll lose those (units) as homes.”

Coun. Craig Keating disagreed, suggesting that while city staff process applications swiftly, “I don’t think they’re superheroes.” It would be improbable that a developer could conduct a land survey, finalize architectural drawings, submit their project to advisory bodies, deal with drainage and sewage issues and somehow get their project in front of council prior to Jan. 1, according to Keating.

Bell’s motion also failed to curry favour with Coun. Pam Bookham, who noted that the new policy represented a significant change for developers.

“In the spirit of co-operation and respect for those are putting their money into rental housing in this community . . . perhaps the date suggested by staff might be best,” she said.

The sooner the new policy can be implemented, the better, responded Coun.
Rod Clark. “If it’s impossible to get through the process by Jan. 1, then what’s the big deal about making it Sept. 1?” he asked.

Bell’s motion to push the start date to Sept. 1 was defeated 5-2.

Coun. Holly Back welcomed the change, suggesting the in-perpetuity policy was needed to keep low-cost housing. “I definitely had some concerns on what’s going to happen 10 years from now,” she said.

In 2017, Clark advocated for council to revise the policy so that 20 per cent of new units would be rented at 10 per cent below market rents. However, the change would not be financially feasible in most developments, according to a city-commissioned analysis from Coriolis Consulting Corp.

As of June 2018, average rents in the city ranged from $1,500 for a studio to $3,825 for a three-bedroom. Given that approximately half of city households are renters, Clark said he hadn’t given up on doubling the amount of discounted units on certain new builds and strata developments.

“This whole conversation is to be continued.”

While the policy should help, Mayor Darrell Mussatto emphasized that municipalities need a boost from the senior levels of government that “basically abdicated” the responsibility to build affordable housing.

While there were 7,138 rental units built in the City of North Vancouver over the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, Coun. Linda Buchanan noted there were zero rentals built in the 1980s and ‘90s and 146 built between 2000 and 2010.

The reason rental construction flatlined was because: “there was no absolutely incentive for them to be built,” she said.

A city staff report attributed the stark decline to the elimination of federal funding and tax incentives as well as the introduction of strata ownership in 1966.

The discounted rentals aren’t just for workers in menial jobs, they’re for entry level nurses and teachers, Buchanan emphasized. “These are the people in the community that also can’t afford to live here,” she said.

While the policy is designed to encourage affordable and alternative housing forms, Keating reminded his colleagues the policy is essentially a tool to assist construction. “There’s certain limits here,” he said. “The City of North Vancouver is not itself going to build any housing.”

However, Clark pointed to a plot of city-owned land on East First Street that he called a: “perfect location for affordable housing.”

In the last eight years, 1,030 rental units have been built or approved in the City of North Vancouver including 41 mid-market rentals.

The July 23 motion also charges city staff with investigating how zoning might be used to require below-market rental units or cash contributions from new strata developments.

Source: ‘Perpetual’ motion to give boost to City of North Van renters

Amalgamation – alternative perspectives

The Global Canadian has published two viewpoints of amalgamation of the City and District of North Vancouver.  Two Councillors:  Rod Clark (current) in the City of North Van and Mike Little (former) in the District.  Here are their viewpoints:

https://www.theglobalcanadian.com/cnv-dnv-amalgamation-bad-idea-needs-soundly-rejected/

https://www.theglobalcanadian.com/amalgamation-mean-savings-residents-efficient-delivery-planning/

Comment by Voices:  We believe that most residents would support a study.  Lots of articles on this site if you do a search under amalgamation.  We are reminded of an article written by Elizabeth James in the North Shore News addressing the new Auditor General for Local Government: https://www.nsnews.com/news/no-shortage-of-projects-for-the-new-aglg-1.355968

‘In that regard, if you should schedule a review of the City and District of North Vancouver, I urge you to consider the two municipalities concurrently because, as residents support mirrored councils and staffs for a combined population of only 131,000, many of them want to see a facilitated dialogue on the pros and cons of amalgamation – no matter what some politicians would prefer.

I agree and suggest that a politician who denies citizens that opportunity is in a direct conflict of interest.’

 

 

Stewart: Time to get big money out of Vancouver City Hall for good | Vancouver Sun

Article in the Vancouver Sun by Kennedy Stewart: ‘Four new measures would go a long way to assure voters that city hall is making decisions for the public good. It’s time they were enacted.’

(1) Introduce Cooling Off Rules (2) New Conflict of Interest Rules (3) Implement a Lobbyist Registry (4) Daylight Campaign Financing.

Full article:

Source: Stewart: Time to get big money out of Vancouver City Hall for good | Vancouver Sun

The new campaign finance rules prohibit donations from organizations, corporations and unions. We previously published: https://nvcityvoices.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/city-of-north-van-council-legitimacy-impaired-by-disclosures/

North Van gives go-ahead to $237 million Harry Jerome replacement | Vancouver Sun

Below is the Vancouver Sun’s article about the Harry Jerome replacement:

Source: North Van gives go-ahead to $237 million Harry Jerome replacement | Vancouver Sun

-which garnered this comment on their website:

Duncan James Beith

No mention  in this article about the real people running the show.

Richard White  and Darwin Development ..Mr. White now retired from his top position at City of  NV  enjoys a lucrative career getting developers projects passed in the C of NV.  Also Mr White sits on the Darwin Team who now will own and run this project. 

Under Mr Whites stewardship the trading or selling of community land to pay for projects always seemed to be the favoured route. While at the same time collecting funds from development in the manner of community ammenity conbributions seemed not to have been a priority . 

So who really runs the City of NV ? Well it is not council that is for sure .

Comment from Voices: The replacement is attracting much discussion around and about, we know that we’re nearing the end of a very long process. We found information on the CNV website going back to 2007: https://www.cnv.org/parks-recreation-and-culture/recreation/harry-jerome-rec-centre/harry-jerome-redevelopment-study-,-a-,-building-renewal

There is much built into the financial portion of the replacement, daycare, affordable housing and there will be cost savings as the project proceeds.  So what do we know for sure?

-the Director of Finance believes the risk is acceptable

-the residents of the City of North Vancouver are being packed into a very small, dense area and will need these recreation facilities

-Millions of dollars have been ‘given away’ by these same protesting Council members (Mussatto, Buchanan and Keating) for density bonuses and favourite projects over the past four years                                                                                                  -the Mosquito Creek completion of the Spirit Trail cost $7M, estimated in 2014 to be under $3M – how much has the “Green Necklace” cost to date?

We also point out that this Council since January has held the minimum number of meetings, many lasting under an hour.  Very typically they hold important hearings and votes in the middle of summer – hoping people don’t pay attention?

A strong public vote in October could bring changes!

 

 

 

 

 

New $237M Harry Jerome rec centre approved in split vote

Source: New $237M Harry Jerome rec centre approved in split vote

Despite a $237 million case of sticker shock, the new Harry Jerome rec centre won approval Monday.

Suggesting approval amounted to a blank cheque, Mayor Darrell Mussatto pleaded with his colleagues not to push the project forward without a more detailed cost estimate.

The centre is replete with curling and hockey rinks, a 50-metre pool as well as a seniors centre.

The rising cost will jump up and “bite us,” Mussatto said, explaining the tax hike that may hit city residents if the project goes sideways.

The city needs a more detailed estimate, but “not today,” Coun. Holly Back pronounced.

While the project’s cost means a risk, a further delay in replacing the 55-year-old cinder block structure will only mean a heftier bill in the end, according to Back.

After noting that the $237 million estimate would have to endure dips in the construction market, shifts in the labour market, and general inflation for five years, Coun. Craig Keating put forward a motion that would have delayed the new rec centre pending a more detailed cost estimate.

Keating’s motion, while understandable, would cause a huge delay, Coun. Rod Clark responded, noting that Harry Jerome rec centre renewal had been a civic priority since before his hair turned grey.

Keating’s motion was defeated, leading to council cast their vote on pushing the Harry Jerome project to tendering and construction.

“I am very, very enthused,” Clark said of the rec centre.

Prior to the critical vote, council got their first glimpse of the design of the new centre, which roughly resembles a giant Jenga game that eliminates the warehouse esthetic of older rec centres, explained project architect Paul Fast.

Coun. Pam Bookham praised the design and noted that the wood and glass esthetic blend seamlessly with the vibrancy that the city has been trying to create.

The motion passed 4-3 with Couns. Clark, Back, Bookham and Don Bell in support and Mussatto, Couns. Keating and Linda Buchanan opposed.

Full story to come…

North Van reunification study on 2018 district ballot

From the North Shore News today, passed by District of North Van Council on July 9th:

More than electing a new council this fall, District of North Vancouver voters are being asked to formally declare whether their new government should support a study into North Vancouver amalgamation.

District council voted unanimously Monday night on a non-binding ballot question intended to test whether there is true mandate for reunification. The question that will appear on the Oct. 20 election ballot reads:

“Do you support the establishment and funding, not to exceed $100,000, of an advisory body comprised jointly of residents of the City of North Vancouver and residents of the District of North Vancouver to investigate the costs, benefits and potential implications of reunifying the two municipalities?”

Council’s vote follows the release of survey results last month that found overwhelming support from residents in both North Vancouvers on whether the two “should jointly investigate the true costs and benefits of amalgamation” – 91 per cent support by current district residents and 82 per cent support by city residents.

“We have to get it into the hands of the people. We cannot leave it in the hands of politicians that are making decisions in a room without windows. This is an opportunity to open a window,” said Coun. Doug MacKay-Dunn.

But, while the district may be ready to pop the question, the city’s council will still have to be talked into courtship, Coun. Robin Hicks cautioned.

“If the city doesn’t open their books, spending any amount of money is an entire waste of time,” he said. “In order to go ahead, both municipalities should be totally committed to it because the negotiations and the … integration of operations, policies and financial arrangements are very complex.”

With the exception of Coun. Don Bell, the current city council has shown no interest in the latest overtures from the district towards reunification. City Mayor Darrell Mussatto said the district was being unneighbourly by conducting the survey and forging ahead without first meeting with city council directly.

District Coun. Roger Bassam, however, pointed out it will be up to the next city council sworn in after the election to determine how much the city bureaucracy helps or hinders the work of the citizen advisory body.

“I remain very hopeful the political leadership in the city will sincerely engage in this process and support the residents of the city and district as they study the subject. I recognize that even if they do not support amalgamation themselves, hopefully they will at least respect the will of the city residents and support this examination thoroughly,” he said.

The city was carved out of the district in 1907 when a group of property speculators petitioned the province for a new municipality that would be cheaper to service than the sprawling district, which, at the time, went from Horseshoe Bay to Deep Cove.

The vote passed 5-0. Coun. Lisa Muri and Mayor Richard Walton were absent from the meeting.

Source: North Van reunification study on 2018 district ballot

Donald Trump is not your Mayor

The following was recently submitted to The Global Canadian (not yet published):

Commentary by Fred Dawkins, North Van City Voices

In the last municipal election, in 2014, roughly three-quarters of North Shore voters did not vote.

The turnout ranged from a paltry 23 per cent in the District of North Vancouver to 28 per cent in the City of North Vancouver, with West Vancouver coming in at 27 per cent. By contrast, the turnout for the most recent provincial election was about 60 per cent – more than double the municipal vote.

Political scientists have advanced a number of theories as to why this is. Probably it’s a combination of factors. Many people feel disengaged from municipal politics – they don’t follow the issues between elections, so don’t know how they should vote when the election comes around. Many don’t see the municipal issues as important, while others are cynical about how business is done at City Hall and don’t feel their vote will change anything.

There’s an information gap too. Most candidates for council are unknown to anyone but their family and friends, and mainstream media coverage of municipal issues and candidates is miniscule compared with coverage of provincial and federal politics.

My unscientific reading of the situation is that, thanks to cable news and social media, the average North Shore voter is more engaged in U.S. politics than in what’s happening in their own back yard. Everyone has an opinion about Donald Trump; not many even know who their mayor is, let alone what he or she stands for.

What it comes down to is, in municipal politics, people perceive that the stakes are low. The majority is okay with leaving the electoral choice to the few people who care, because after all, what’s the worst that can happen if the “wrong” people get elected to Council.

Well, if you are becoming increasingly irritated and inconvenienced by the unending traffic snarls on our major North Shore routes, this is one of those “worst things”.

Four years ago, City of North Vancouver voters were offered a choice between an organized bloc of candidates who advocated a rapid build-up of residential development, and a number of independent candidates who called for a more careful, measured approach to growth. Then a relatively small number of votes (remember, 28 per cent total turnout) elected a pro-developer council, dominated by candidates who received financial backing from the developers. The building boom accelerated, fueled by Official Community Plan amendments and density bonuses.

Now here we are. And it’s not over yet – the legacy of our developer-friendly City government will be felt for years to come, with several major developments still under construction. If you think traffic is bad now, just wait till all those new condos and townhouses are completed and the hundreds of additional residents join the daily commute.

Feel engaged yet?

The irony is, I’m preaching to the converted. If you are reading this community newspaper, you’re probably already among the relative minority who follow the local issues and will likely get out and vote this fall.

To you, I make this request – please talk it up with your friends and neighbours who may not be as engaged in North Shore issues. When they complain about the traffic, point out that our city councils are the ones who allow runaway development while doing almost nothing to ease the stress on our commuter routes and civic infrastructure. Make sure they know an election is coming, and unless they want four more years of this (or worse), they should read up on the candidates in their community newspaper, and make plans to vote for the ones who haven’t got us into this mess.

You might also point out that because of the relatively small numbers, their single vote has a lot more impact than it does in provincial and federal elections. And a short walk to the voting booth can make a big difference in their quality of life.

Iconic reminder of railway history is being pushed from place to place in North Vancouver | The Global Canadian

From the Global Canadian:  for those wondering where our PGE Station is:

A rare railway structure dating back to 1913 lies forgotten and abandoned as a new glitzy city shapes up at the Foot of Lonsdale. The iconic reminder of BC’s railway history and pioneer spirit was temporarily moved to a city-owned vacant lot on Alder Street to make way for the new Polygon Gallery and other buildings at the Foot of Lonsdale in 2014.

This ‘designated municipal heritage building’ was supposed to be back to the Foot of Lonsdale in 2015. Three years later, this seminal structure lies neglected and forgotten by a council too focussed on developing and reshaping the city. A study by a city consultant even suggested the PGE building could be converted into an ice cream shop or coffee shop in efforts to keep it on the waterfront, but that never happened. Those who value history may have to wait another few years before the council decides what it will do with the PGE building.

Communications manager for the City of North Vancouver, Connie Rabold, said council decided in 2014 that the relocation of PGE Station be referred to the Waterfront Park Master Plan process, which is scheduled for 2020. The abandoned building is a painful sight for former journalist John Kendrick, whose accompanying picture documents the council’s broken promise on the building. “It seemed to have been conveniently forgotten and that is certainly no way to treat a key part of our community’s heritage,” Kendrick said.

“This iconic piece of North Van’s history has been getting treated like this for decades.  For the longest time, it sat on the grass in Mahon Park behind Burdett stadium (where nobody much knew what it was), being used as an annex to the North Van Museum, until it was finally decided to move it back to the its original site at bottom Lonsdale.  As we now know, that wasn’t to last very long. It’s now sitting in a lonely corner of the municipality overlooking the grain elevators, where nobody sees it.”

Railway historian and archivist at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish said the railway operated from the Foot of Lonsdale to Horseshoe Bay from 1914 until 1929. He said the old station has been moved several times since 1929 and faces an uncertain future considering the frenzied pace of development happening in the City of North Vancouver.

“CNV is having trouble keeping up with the development happening at the moment and there are hundreds of old homes being torn down in the name of progress. History and one old station are way down on the list of priorities. Look at how the North Vancouver Museum has been pushed around from one place to other over the years. It looks like they might now have a permanent home but it won’t be ready until 2020,” he said.

According to the Canadian Register of Historic Places, a resource funded by the federal government, the building’s heritage value is associated with its location in Lower Lonsdale, the ‘earliest, most historic area of commercial buildings on the North Shore of Burrard Inlet.’

“The railway had an important role in the economic growth of North Vancouver, providing a link to the resources of the interior of the province as well as passenger services to Horseshoe Bay and West Vancouver. The streetcar, ferry to Vancouver and PGE railway all converged at the south foot of Lonsdale Avenue, the major transportation hub on the North Shore. The PGE station serves as a reminder to the area’s historic significance.”

For Kendrick and Mills and many others City of North Vancouver citizens who value history, the PGE station is now a reminder of something entirely different: of shameless neglect and political amnesia.

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Source: Iconic reminder of railway history is being pushed from place to place in North Vancouver | The Global CanadianThe Global Canadian