North Van City Voices – Delegation May 28 2012
Good evening Mayor Mussatto and Councillors my name is Marc Pedersen and I’m speaking as a member and representative of North Van City Voices. Many of our members are here tonight.
North Van City Voices is a new and growing assembly of City residents who are deeply concerned about the direction in which City Hall is taking our community and are working together to try to change the City’s approach to planning and development. In particular we want to see significant change in the way the City is revising our OCP.
Several participants at the City Shaping kick-off event earlier this year met afterwards to compare notes about what they had seen and heard. It seemed to us that the rabidly pro-density speakers chosen to start the event, the handouts, the supporting materials and even the none too subtle “steering” attempted by some facilitators at the tables, all led us to suspect that the outcome of the OCP revision process was for the most part predetermined and aimed primarily at driving the city toward rapid and large increases in density. Subsequent City Shaping events have not allayed our fears, despite what we detected as changes to soften the message.
While we have respect for the professionalism and ethics of the city planning staff, we have grown very concerned about the role city staff members have been assigned in handling development applications. Since staff is advising Council, we think their primary responsibility should be as defenders of the OCP. We have been dismayed to see City planning staff assigned to work with developers to find a way around the OCP and we have heard from developers that city staff members have encouraged them to ask for more height on proposed buildings. THIS IS WRONG.
We are emphatically not anti-growth. However we believe the pace of development is out of control in our city. We want to continue to enjoy the things that brought us to North Vancouver – its beautiful scenery, spectacular vistas and natural splendor. We do not want to live in the shadows of oversized condos or have our limited hours of sunlight blocked by massive towers. We want growth that respects the character and values of our neighbourhoods and growth that puts the interests of citizens first. We want growth that respects the Official Community Plan, not growth driven by developers and speculators. We want LIVABLE GROWTH that includes the development of parks, recreation facilities, schools, medical facilities, transportation and traffic capacity at the same time as development occurs, not as a long-delayed afterthought, paid for through higher taxes.
Population and Housing – Too far too fast
In some City Shaping documents it is noted that the city population is projected to grow from its current 51,083 to 68,000 by 204l. We believe you are trying to go too far with that growth. At 4,318 people per square km. the City of North Vancouver is already one of the most densely populated in British Columbia and is the third highest in the lower mainland. Growth to the projected 68,000 residents means our density will increase to about 5,750 people per sq. km.
Curious about comparable high density urban environments we turned to a site that ranks cities worldwide by population density. Our 5,750 people per sq. km. would make our little city more dense than current day Metro Tokyo,Ankara and Athens. Does our tiny 11 sq km city really want to become a crowded, traffic-bound mini Tokyo or mini-Athens? Our neighbouring NorthShore communities are projecting densities of approximately 700 per sq km.
We believe that growth plans for our city go too far. We believe growth is happening too fast.
Let’s review the population growth projections (created by Metro with local input). Our target for 2021 is 56,000 and for 2031 is 62,000 people. The projected increase in the number of dwellings is to 25,600 in 2021 and 28,000 in 2031. Right now the city has on its books about 4,100 dwelling units underway or in process. We recognize that not all the projects will complete, but this means that using the city’s calculation of 2.2 people per unit, we have almost achieved our 2031 target. And this does not include duplexes, coach houses, the foot of Lonsdale, development on unused school property or land around Harry Jerome.
Growth in our city is OUT OF CONTROL.
Why is this happening?
A significant part of the problem may be our policy on density bonusing.
WE DON‘T HAVE ONE!
We looked at the policies of other municipalities in Metro Vancouver. West Vancouver receives 75% of the value of land they rezone. Burnaby says that their city gets 100% . Other cities get between 50% and 85% of the increase. What do we get? Since there are no rules, we don’t really know. That could help explain why developers are flocking to our city and why development seems out of control. It is hard to know for sure , but by one calculation, one developer on Lonsdale saved several million dollars by taking advantage of our ad hoc density bonus system, compared to what would have been owing had the building been in West Van or Burnaby.
Density bonusing without guidelines in place leaves the city’s development process open to abuse. The stakes are very high. We urgently need a written policy. In the meantime the developers get bolder, traffic gets worse, amenities and services fall farther behind and our taxes still increase.
TO SUM UP:
— We think that exceeding 2041 growth projections go too far. Our city does not need to be as densely built up as current day Tokyo, Ankara or Athens.
— We believe the city has been growing too fast and we are on track to exceed our 10 and 20 year growth figures within 5 years.
— We know that our city has no written policy on density bonusing and, we strongly suspect that because of that, the city is not getting as much value for additional density and favourable rezoning as municipalities that do have such policies. We need a transparent, airtight policy on density bonusing in order to develop a reputation for dealing professionally and consistently with development issues.
— Major projects are being excluded from consideration within the OCP revision process. We believe that excluding them is not in the public interest.
TONIGHT WE ARE ASKING YOU
To reconsider, revise and extend the OCP revision process to help eliminate the widespread perception that the outcome of the process has been predetermined.
We ask that Council develop some reasonable policies and guidelines with respect to density bonusing, like those in West Vancouver and Vancouver, so that the public knows that the city is getting fair value for additional density and so that developers are not able to avoid paying less than their share.
We ask, in the public interest, you to include in the OCP revision process all major projects, such as Harbourside and the Onni projects and not exempt them as you currently seem determined to do. To proceed with these projects before we have a density bonusing policy in place would be irresponsible. The financial stakes for the City are enormous.
We ask you to open up the OCP revision process so it includes open dialogue about all the possibilities for the future. Not just the developer friendly but people friendly future of massive, soulless towers, jammed-together condos and overloaded parks, roads and services.
We ask you to include in the process one or more community forums and funding to engage expert speakers with alternative views on densification and development which would be in sharp contrast to those who spoke at the first City Shaping event.
We ask you to ensure that the city has its own parks, amenities and facilities for everyone who lives here and doesn’t have to depend on neighbouring municipalities to provide them.
We’d like to thank you for your time and attention. We would like to work with you to improve the current process.