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CNV elections: meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Opinion piece by Fred Dawkins, Voices spokesperson and published by The Global Canadian (Nov 2018)

CNV elections: meet the new boss, same as the old boss

So…what to make of the 2018 municipal election in the City of North Vancouver?

While voters in neighbouring municipalities opted for slow-growth advocates, CNV voters returned majority control of their city council to the pro-development slate led by former councillor Linda Buchanan. She will be supported by three new pro-development councillors, all relative unknowns.

How did this happen? And what does it mean?

First, let’s look at the big picture. In recent years CNV has seen an unprecedented building boom, far surpassing development targets that were debated and established just four years ago. Time after time, high-rise condo proposals that exceeded the city’s Official Community Plan have come before a city council dominated by a slate that was elected with the help of developer money and union “volunteers”. And time after time, those proposals were approved by a 4-3 vote.

The result? All this condo building has done nothing to improve housing affordability. In fact it’s getting worse as big new market rental buildings replace affordable older apartments, leading to a rise in “renovictions”. Meanwhile, predictably, traffic has spiked, with the approaches to both North Shore bridges gridlocked at almost every rush hour. Commuters have been grousing about the traffic tie-ups. Long-time residents have been complaining about the density explosion, urging their neighbours to get out and vote for the slower-growth side in 2018. Surely it was time for a change, no?

As it turned out…no. Only 34 per cent of eligible voters came out in 2018 – a little better than the 30 per cent who voted in 2014, but far short of a wave for change. And those who did vote opted for the same developer-backed slate that facilitated the condo explosion and traffic nightmares we see today.

It could easily have been different. In the mayor’s race, Buchanan – a two-term CNV councillor mentored by outgoing mayor Darrell Mussatto – outpolled former councillor Guy Heywood by a mere 400 votes.*

Vote splitting was a big factor here. Buchanan enjoyed the unified support of the real estate industry, while those residents who want to put the brakes on the condo boom had to choose among three experienced, high-profile independent candidates in Heywood, Rod Clark and Kerry Morris. Combined, those three garnered 64 per cent of the vote, against Buchanan’s 30 per cent.

In hindsight, it seems clear that if just one of the three had stayed out of the race, the mayoralty would have gone to an independent and the entire complexion of CNV government would have changed. Did egos and personal grudges get in the way of a unified front? Possibly. But hindsight is always 20-20, and I don’t begrudge any candidate who runs because they sincerely believe they have the right vision for the city.

On the other hand, the power of slate voting in municipal elections has never been more evident. Among the 24 candidates for CNV council were several experienced former office holders with considerable local name recognition. Yet thanks to being endorsed as part of a five-candidate slate, three relative unknowns with virtually zero experience in CNV civic affairs – Tina Hu, Angela Girard and Jessica McIlroy – received more votes than their better-known opponents.

(One thing I can say for Buchanan’s new team – according to their campaign materials, they share a common attribute: all say they are “passionate”… so I guess we can expect more stirring oratory at future council meetings.)

Many veteran council watchers were surprised by this outcome. They shouldn’t have been. Remember this is municipal politics, where low turnouts magnify the impact of bloc voting. Without an organized front by citizens who want a rational, slow-growth approach to development, the one faction that is organized and funded will win every time, no matter who the candidates are.

In any case, don’t expect much in the way of collaboration with the District. And I predict the Harry Jerome rec centre plan is due for a rethink, shrinkage, and more delay.

In the meantime, the slate holding the reins at CNV city hall plans to continue the strategy of making housing more affordable by building a whole lot more of it. It has never worked before, but hey, maybe this time. 

*comment:  Mayor Buchanan received 9.9% of the votes (3800) from eligible voters (38,163) and 29.7% of the votes cast for Mayor = 70% of the votes were for others

 

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Residents increasingly share a dim view of real estate developers – Commentary | Business in Vancouver

Article borrowed from Business in Vancouver and quoting in part: For the past three years, housing has consistently topped the charts as the most important issue facing most cities in Metro Vancouver.

One of the issues that have played a role in the sudden loss of esteem for real estate developers is the perception of cosiness with sitting municipal administrations. This becomes clear when Metro Vancouverites are asked a simple question: who has more influence on the look and feel of your municipality?

Comment by Voices: This perception is very evident in the City of North Vancouver, with the development community funding the election of the consistent 4-3 majority on Council.  A good question for Mayoral candidate Buchanan – why have you not supported the Regional Growth Strategy Targets for the City of North Vancouver?  currently exceeding the year 2041?

Across the Lower Mainland, only 24% of residents believe their municipal government is the deciding authority when it comes to the future of neighbourhoods. A slightly smaller proportion (22%) believe the community itself has more influence.

Who is regarded as the most powerful voice when it comes to how our neighbourhoods look and feel? Developers, as stated by two in five Metro Vancouverites (39%). Men (44%) are more likely to express this opinion than women (34%), but all generations agree that governments and communities are taking a back seat in these discussions.

The public is also particularly critical of the idea that, in an effort to build, the character of their municipality is being abandoned. Three in four Metro Vancouverites (74%) feel that developers are too quick to demolish and rebuild when existing facades and structures could be kept.

The results outline two problems for incoming city councils. One is the perceived lack of consultation from members of specific communities, who may find it difficult to attend meetings or have a voice in traditional forums. The other is the feeling of powerlessness when the relationship between developers and municipal politicians is as entrenched as it is in some cities.

Source: Residents increasingly share a dim view of real estate developers – Commentary | Business in Vancouver

Escaping gridlock’s grip: New plan addresses North Shore traffic problems

From the North Shore News today:

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read more:

Source: Escaping gridlock’s grip: New plan addresses North Shore traffic problems

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

Metro Vancouver elected officials compensation (updated)

Further to this earlier post, we have received the following breakdown from a City resident,  with this comment: 

‘Two things come immediately to mind.  Look at the potential savings from a merger of the NV City and District.  Also, look at how well compensated the CNV mayor is relative to other communities with much bigger problems – like Surrey for example.’

 

2017 Pop Salary Per Person
Surrey 556,566 139,023  0.25
Vancouver 656,164 165,700  0.25
Burnaby 234,433 132,576  0.57
Richmond 219,273 132,426  0.60
Coquitlam 150,144 138,239  0.92
Langley, District Municipality 127,730 126,514  0.99
Maple Ridge 87,713 100,545  1.15
Delta 102,679 119,871  1.17
North Vancouver, District Municipality 85,842 101,796  1.19
New Westminster 73,928 108,592  1.47
Port Coquitlam 62,194 96,752  1.56
Port Moody 33,857 58,980  1.74
West Vancouver 43,802 84,479  1.93
North Vancouver, City of 53,816 107,185  1.99
Langley, City of 27,363 84,600  3.09
Pitt Meadows 19,580 71,000  3.63
White Rock 19,187 78,730  4.10
Bowen Island 3,623 22,920  6.33
Anmore 2,398 24,456  10.20
Lions Bay 1,319 14,085  10.68

Original post:

We ‘borrowed’ this Chart of the Week from Metro Matters (contact metromatters@cbc.ca), a CBC Vancouver newsletter:

The base salaries above do not include expenses, additional allowances for being ‘Mayor of the month’ $1350/ month served, Metro Vancouver payments etc.

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…

City of North Vancouver advances Harry Jerome project

 

The City of North Vancouver is one massive step closer to getting its new Harry Jerome rec centre after council narrowly voted to advance an 802-unit Upper Lonsdale development project that will pay for it following a public hearing held Monday.

Council voted 4-3, despite hesitations from Couns. Linda Buchanan and Craig Keating, as well as Mayor Darrell Mussatto, to advance the development of the Harry Jerome neighbourhood lands that will see Darwin Properties build one 30-storey tower and one 26-storey tower in addition to three six-storey buildings and one five-storey building between 21st and 23rd streets along Lonsdale Avenue.

Darwin will agree to pay the city $183 million to lease the land for a period of 99 years, with the funds going towards paying for the new Harry Jerome recreation centre project estimated to cost $210 million.

“This is a good deal for the city,” said Coun. Rod Clark. “I’ve been pushing for leasing of city-owned lands for 15, 20 years.”

More than 40 local residents addressed council during Monday’s public hearing, with a near even split between those in favour of the project and those opposed.

Many who spoke out against the project rallied against the loss of nearby Norseman Field, which will be cleared to make way for the new rec centre, pending approval.

But, Clark noted, Darwin’s proposal accounts for loss of local green space with plans to extend nearby Crickmay Park south along Lonsdale to 21st Street as well as weaving the Green Necklace trail network through the development area.

“Much has been made at this table about what we’re getting in the way of trades between losing Norseman Park and Mickey McDougall Field and what the new project will bring,” Clark said. “It’s going to be a change, but you’re going to have open space and it will be public accessible.”

Darwin’s 802-unit proposal includes 486 units of market housing and 124 units of market rental, as well as 13 units that will be devoted to affordable rentals and another 99 units earmarked for seniors in need of assisted living. In addition, the proposal also includes a child-care centre with 37 spaces and 80 housing units that the city can allocate to a non-profit organization of its choosing.

Local resident Linda Sullivan, who spoke at the public hearing, praised Darwin’s proposal for offering a variety of housing options.

“Moving away from family in North Vancouver is now becoming a necessity rather than a choice,” Sullivan said. “I’m excited at the prospect that my sons could come back to North Vancouver.”

But Coun. Keating said that a rec centre with a curling rink and 50-metre swimming pool was excessive and argued the community shouldn’t have to pay for it by losing park space and adding unwanted density, referring to the proposed Harry Jerome rec centre as more of an “elite sport lollapalooza.”

“Where’s the District of North Vancouver? They just finished building a new recreation centre. Did they get a 50-metre pool?” he mused. “We got to carry the cost with that, and more specifically this neighbourhood has to carry the cost of that because they’re the ones who are going to have all this new traffic, all this new density, all these new buildings in that spot.”

Coun. Buchanan observed that Darwin’s proposal was the “single largest development that we’re going to see along the Lonsdale corridor,” and while she approved of the project’s community amenities, she balked at the potential costs.

“What we started out with was saying we wanted a community recreation centre, we’ve now got a regional centre. … How much is this community prepared to pay?” she said. “We’ve had housing projects that have come forward that have given us far greater benefits to supply housing and people around this table have refused it.”

Retired school teacher Rosemary Swinton worried the community wouldn’t be able to handle an influx of new people as increased density lured families to the area.

“You have 37 units available for child care. In a building of these sizes, this is totally inadequate. I would suggest that the developers look carefully at this because daycare is a major problem for young parents,” she said, adding that a lack of schools in the Lonsdale area could create challenges for families as well. “What are parents to do if both parents work? How do they get their children to school?”

Following Monday’s public hearing, council voted on a number of official community plan amendments that would allow the project to proceed. Darwin originally proposed building a pair of 28-storey towers, but agreed to instead build one 30-storey on the project’s north side and one 26-storey tower at the southern side following discussion that variances in height would create a more pleasing skyline.

Couns. Clark, Holly Back, Don Bell and Pam Bookham voted in favour of the proposed amendments, with Couns. Buchanan, Keating and Mayor Mussatto opposed.

Source: City of North Vancouver advances Harry Jerome project