CityHallWatch asks all Metro city councils NOT to accept Vancouver’s Regional Context Statement on July 26, instead to urge more consultation

Below is copy of a letter CityHallWatch sent today. Search for “RSC” for more stories about this whole fiasco and its problems.

To Mayors and Councillors of the Metro Vancouver Region:

Further to our June 11 e-mail to all Mayors and Councillors (“Protesting the City of Vancouver’s lack of meaningful consultation on Regional Context Statement – Official Development Plan”), we are writing to ask you to encourage your Metro Vancouver Board Director NOT to accept the City of Vancouver RCS-ODP when it comes before the Board of Directors on July 26, 2013 and to encourage the City to return the process to public consultation in order to obtain more public input. We believe this is a significant issue for the entire region.

Are your own Board Directors keeping you adequately informed of the work of Metro Vancouver? Perhaps this level of detail is not being conveyed, so we are writing directly to all mayors and councillors, as you may find this to be an important and timely case study.

As you know, each Metro Vancouver municipality must submit a Regional Context Statement under the Regional Growth Strategy. The formal deadline for acceptance by the Board was to have been July 29, 2013, but several municipalities have indicated they lacked sufficient time and intend to submit their RCS later. There is no legislated penalty or sanction for failing to submit on time. These are important documents to guide development over the next thirty years.

We believe that the City of Vancouver has failed to engage in meaningful public engagement and public consultation on our City’s Regional Context Statement – Official Development Plan. Similarly, Vancouver citizens had very little opportunity to learn about or participate in actual final text of the Regional Growth Strategy adopted in 2011. We believe this failure to be a serious systemic problem, as Vancouver with over 600,000 people currently has the largest population of any municipality in the region, and considerable influence in regional development.

Most other municipalities have an Official Community Plan (an actual plan) that requires a public hearing before adoption. The Regional Context Statement is basically the same as the OCP. Vancouver has no such plan. The RCS and ODP here are both approved together as a compilation of various policies, but many of those policies have involved little or no public involvement and no public hearing was held on many of the policies listed in Vancouver’s RCS-ODP.

Most concerns of the citizens who happened to even learn about RCS-ODP draft were ignored, and the final version before the Metro Vancouver Board on July 26 incorporated none of those concerns.

The CityHallWatch report of the public hearing on June 11 shows the opposition to the RCS-ODP draft and the failed consultation process. A letter signed by 23 groups and individuals lists numerous specific concerns about the document. See list in Appendix further below. See link to report here:

There are other irregularities, improprieties, and disappointments. For example:

  • The City took the unusual approach of holding an Open House AFTER referring the document to a Public Hearing. The Open House on May 16 this year was just barely advertised, barely attended, and received virtually no media coverage. None of the public comments received were reflected in any changes in the draft RCS.
  • Due to an unexplained technical glitch, the Public Hearing on June 11 was not webcasted live, meaning that anyone unable to attend the meeting had no opportunity to follow proceedings, and no official video record of the meeting exists.
  • The rush to refer the RCS to a public hearing in effect worked as a shield to discourage communication between citizens and their own elected officials. (We have asked top City management for clarity on related rules, and have received no clear answer on this since April, despite numerous reminders.)
  • At the Metro Vancouver level, the topic introduction and unanimous vote to accept the City of Vancouver Regional Context Statement – Official Development Plan at the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning and Agriculture Committee meeting on July 5, 2013, took a total of 41 seconds. Please see video here. The Director representing Vancouver at this Committee was so busy typing that she did not even address the meeting. There was no discussion. Is this indicative of the level of regional oversight of municipal processes?

In summary, we have concerns about the very content of Vancouver’s Regional Context Statement, and the lack of meaningful consultation in the process taken by the City of Vancouver to adopt it. Many questions and concerns posed by citizens remain ignored and unanswered. For the record, we assert no one can say that the Regional Context Statement – Official Development reflects the wishes of the citizens of Vancouver.

For this reason, we encourage the Metro Vancouver Board Directors of all municipalities in the region NOT to accept the City of Vancouver RCS-ODP when it comes before the Board on July 26, 2013. We ask that you encourage the City to return the process to proper public consultation..

Randal Helten

  • cc. Metro Vancouver Board Chair and Chief Administrative Officer
  • Mayor and Council, City of Vancouver
  • City Manager, City of Vancovuer

APPENDIX – CityHallWatch asks Metro municipal Mayors/Councillors NOT to accept Vancouver’s Regional Context Statement on July 26, instead urge more consultation


Agenda for Metro Vancouver Board meeting July 26, 2013

(We provide summary at this link, as the official version on Metro Vancouver website is 30 MB in size.)

Open House May 16, 2013, on City of Vancouver RCS-ODP was held only AFTER the RCS-ODP was referred to Public Hearing.

Note that the City of Vancouver announced and held an Open House, one single event, only after referring the RCS-ODP to a Public Hearing. In a city of over 600,000 persons, attendance at the Open House was less than forty persons, and this number included not only citizens but also development industry representatives, etc.

Agenda for City of Vancouver Public Hearing June 11, 2013 for the Regional Context Statement – Official Development Plan

Minutes of City of Vancouver Public Hearing June 11, 2013 for the Regional Context Statement – Official Development Plan

Tally of public input to the Public Hearing, June 11, 2013

  • Letters of support: 3
  • Letters opposed 54, one signed by 23 organizations and individuals
  • Speakers in support – 2 (Only one spoke as a citizen. The other spoke as chair of the Vancouver City Planning Commission, which is selected by on City Council and funded by the City of Vancouver.)
  • Speakers opposed: 9 (Many others had signed up to speak but did not have the opportunity.)

CityHallWatch report of results of Public Hearing

Link to CityHallWatch letter to Christy Clark, copied to all mayors and councillors, June 11, 2013

A short list of concerns about the draft Regional Context Statement and Official Development Plan, excerpted from letter signed by 23 groups and individuals (Title: Regional Context Statement and Official Development Plan – Public Hearing June 11, 2013. Opening sentence: “We are opposed to the Regional Context Statement and Official Development Plan as currently proposed.”

  • The “Metro Core” has been extended to include the entire downtown peninsula (including West End, Coal Harbour, Central Business District, Yaletown, DTES), Strathcona, Fairview, and Mount Pleasant — east to Clark / Knight St., north to the water, south to 16th Avenue, and west to Burrard. What are the full implications of this? Are they clearly written? How might staff, Council, land owners, developers, speculators, and citizens interpret this today and in the next few decades? Let’s get it out clearly in writing. Vagueness benefits special interests and usually doesn’t benefit the public.
  • The Oakridge Town Centre is expanded from what was previously a dot on the map to include parcel by parcel designation on the map.
  • The “Thin Streets” concept (to build housing on streets next to existing corner lots) is back, even though the mayor took it off the table after public outrage in October 2012 and restricted it to community plans underway.
  • Designation of Cambie Street as a Frequent Transit Development Area (FTDA).
  • A proposed future FTDA along the Broadway Corridor that would be extended to include the segment from Boundary to Blanca is premature and presumptuous, without demonstrated community support.
  • EcoDensity is listed policy, which Mayor Robertson criticized following his election in 2008, and praised the public for opposing, Vision Vancouver committed to reconsider.
  • Greater influence for TransLink (a politically-appointed body) in land use decisions in Vancouver.
  • There are increased potential financial implications, including regional or TransLink levies such as property taxes, DCLs, CACs and other means to finance senior government responsibilities like transit. This takes away from city resources for community amenities, infrastructure, and below-market housing that the city must provide for a rising population. This is “senior” government downloading to the city.
  • Rental Housing Official Development Plan (which staff stated actually is the legal name for “Rate of Change” policy — but citizens requested confirmation in writing).
  • Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing (a politically appointed body that produced some controversial outputs, some not adequately discussed by the public or actually recommended by the Task Force).
  • Interim Rezoning Policy (which in October 2012 resulted in a “trial” allowing spot rezoning on all arterial streets in Vancouver for greater heights, with no mention of density restrictions, and potentially up-zoned areas within 100 meters of neighbourhood shopping areas.
  • Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 plan is listed policy in RCS. T2040 was changed from a primarily transportation plan to land use plan released only 3 days before Council for approval with no public hearing. One of the “last minute” additions included using development to fund transit (the Hong Kong model), for which there was no public consultation.
  • Local Centres are identified on a map (page 58) including CityPlan neighbourhood centres. Norquay will be a precedent for these areas. New centres in other areas are also identified prior to local area planning defining the location such as:
    • Grandview – East 1 Ave. and Commercial Dr.
    • Kitsilano – Macdonald and Broadway, Arbutus and Broadway, West Fourth Ave. and Arbutus
    • Marpole – W. 70th Ave. and Granville, Cambie and Marine
  • Local Centres will have greater pressure for high density development.
  • City staff contend that there was no need for public consultation in preparation of this draft, claiming that the document is only a compilation of existing city policies. We believe, however, that that it is not simply a compilation of existing policies. Many aspects of this document have not involved prior public consultation, such as increased population and dwelling projections, greater than in the Regional Growth Strategy, that are now proposed to be targeted at specific locations.


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