Tag Archives: Council

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

 

Setting the Record Straight #3

Here we are again disputing Stache’s comic of the day – not that we want to give him any publicity but his statements today need to be refuted. There seems to be no ability on his website anymore to leave a comment. https://mystacheonline.com/2018/09/28/wannabe-mayor-councillors-buchanan-and-clark-are-ready-to-program-your-livability-whether-you-want-them-to-or-not/

He states, referring to Mayoral Candidates Buchanan and Clark: ‘Two anti NIMBY’s voicing similar sanctimonious robotic platforms that would enable either one IF elected to further deconstruct and devastate the social wellness and livability of our city… All you have to do discerning voters is look at their evidentiary pro density city council records over the last four years’.

We would strongly suggest that you DO look at their records – Councillor Clark, together with Councillors Bell and Bookham, has consistently voted against the majority slate, hence the references to the 4-3 vote approving most developments. The majority being Mussatto, Back, Buchanan and Keating.

DO NOT ACCEPT SOMEONE BLINDLY STATING FALSE FACTS!

Elizabeth Murphy: Vancouver city hall is slamming through destructive new zoning without giving citizens a say | Vancouver Sun

North Van City Voices has documented that the City of North Van has exceeded the 2041 Regional Growth Targets and is rushing to get through more density before the vote on October 20th: partial quote from the article:

The shift from the Livable Region Strategic Plan in 1996 to the 2011 Regional Growth Strategy has directed the emphasis to growth objectives. As land values have increased due to speculative inflation from rezoning for more density, demolitions of older, more affordable buildings have increased, with more people displaced, causing skyrocketing homelessness and unaffordability. Most of the new supply is unaffordable for both owners and renters and often left empty.

Now the enormous costs of servicing this growth agenda are emerging with the need for billions of dollars to upgrade utility services.

The city’s consultants confirmed as far back as 2014 that there is more than enough existing zoned capacity to meet population growth beyond 2041. Yet the city continues a manic rush to rezone.

The City of Vancouver is on a mad rush job to rezone Kitsilano and Cedar Cottage in a move that will only benefit developers.

read full article:

Source: Elizabeth Murphy: Vancouver city hall is slamming through destructive new zoning without giving citizens a say | Vancouver Sun

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

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.

‘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

City of North Van council sends Harry Jerome project to public hearing (NS News)

Source: City of North Van council sends Harry Jerome project to public hearing

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Which is stronger: your desire for a new Harry Jerome rec centre or your aversion to a pair of 28-storey towers?

That’s the question facing City of North Vancouver residents following council’s decision Monday night to advance an 802-unit Upper Lonsdale proposal to public hearing.

If approved, Darwin Properties would build two 81-metre-tall towers as well as a trio of six-storey residential buildings and a five-storey commercial building on the patch of land occupied by the current Harry Jerome rec centre, the Silver Harbour Seniors’ Activity Centre, and Norseman Field. Pending council’s approval, Darwin would pay the city $183 million to lease the land for 99 years. Much of that money could go towards the new $210-million Harry Jerome rec centre project.

Council voted 4-2 to push the project forward despite the vociferous objections of Coun. Craig Keating, who said the community did not ask for a rec centre with a 50-metre pool or a curling rink.

“We’re actually carrying the freight for the two other districts who just can’t get it together to fund the things that their citizens want,” he said, suggesting the districts of North and West Vancouver are: “too profligate or too cheap to fund their obligations.”

The project is slated to include a medical office building, restaurant, grocery store, and a child-care facility totalling 22,700 square feet of retail and 73,500 square feet of office space. The project’s floor space ratio – which measures total floor space against the size of the lot – is 2.5. That density was: “never asked for and never imagined,” Keating said.

Keating also noted that council declined to include a pool in the John Braithwaite Community Centre – a fact Coun. Pam Bookham also pointed out.

“That to me argues the greater need for a pool (at Harry Jerome),” she said.

Responding to Keating’s argument that the new Harry Jerome rec centre will end up serving the entire North Shore, Bookham noted that North Shore residents seeking recreation frequently cross municipal borders. “If it can be enjoyed by others, so be it,” she said.

Council’s support of dense highrises in recent years has necessitated a major rec centre, according to Bookham.

“We are building more multi-unit housing, the units are smaller, people who are occupying those units need spaces like recreation centres and parks in order to make life on the North Shore livable.”

Coun. Linda Buchanan suggested the current rec centre plans are too grand for the area.

“This is not a community centre,” she said.

Despite her opposition, Buchanan praised aspects of Darwin’s proposal, which includes 80 housing units to be allocated to a non-profit organization of the city’s choosing, a child-care centre with 37 spaces, and an extension of Crickmay Park along Lonsdale Avenue to East 21st Street. The development would also include 486 units of market housing, 124 market rental units, 99 units for seniors in assisted living and 13 affordable rentals.

“It’s going to crush this community with the amount of density,” Buchanan said.

The 28-storey towers are a way to maintain green space, according to Coun. Holly Back.

“Instead of going short and fat, I like to go tall and skinny,” she said. “It’s hard to count how many storeys they really are once they’re up in the air.”

Coun. Don Bell took the opposite view, suggesting it would make more sense to spread the density over the site. But despite his misgivings about the 28-storey towers, Bell voted in favour, noting that heights could be reduced following the public hearing as long as the development’s density doesn’t increase.

The project requires several amendments to the official community plan to change land use designations and maximum building heights. Currently, the ceiling on the site is 18 storeys.

Bell also stressed the need to move forward with replacement of the Harry Jerome rec centre, suggesting that keeping the current pool warm and the ice frozen will cost the city “substantial monies” in the future.

The original Harry Jerome rec centre was built when the city’s population was around 27,000, Coun. Rod Clark pointed out, noting the city’s population has doubled since then.

“This council in the main has supported incredible increases in density up and down Lonsdale, to the benefit of the development community,” he said. “Here’s an instance where we’re benefiting the citizens of the city.”

However, Clark added that council needs to maintain an open mind during the public hearing. “If they come in here swinging a bat saying: ‘We don’t want more than 18 storeys,” well, I guess that’s what we have to consider. And if that’s the case, we won’t have enough money to do Harry Jerome.”

Darwin’s development is interdependent with the new rec centre. The final phase of Darwin’s development isn’t set to go under construction until the new rec centre is open for business, ensuring there’s no disruption in rec centre service.

The public hearing is scheduled for June 18.

Mayor Darrell Mussatto did not attend the meeting.