Grassroots action has been escalating in an attempt to preserve affordable rental housing in Burnaby and save buildings from demolition for construction of expensive condo towers.
We have obtained a copy of a letter from Burnaby resident Helen Ward to Burnaby City Council for a public hearing tonight, Tuesday, June 23, 2015. Ms. Ward outlines many concerns regarding the rezoning. We publish the letter here, with permission. The agenda for the public hearing is at this link. Related coverage from the past: Burnaby’s Metrotown area grows up. by Charlie Smith, The Straight, 28-Sept-2011). Anyone wishing to submit an opinion for the Public Hearing can write to firstname.lastname@example.org by 7 pm on the day of the meeting. (Separately, direct e-mail to Mayor Derek Corrigan and council is at email@example.com). Info on public hearings here.
Dear Mayor Corrigan and Council (June 23, 2015)
This is to inform you that I strongly oppose the rezoning of 6380 and 6420 Silver Avenue.
1. Legality of rezoning proposal and process in question:
The Metrotown Community Plan which is to be followed unless amended states that Maywood neighbourhood low-rises (such as the Silver Ave apartments) “should be protected”, not demolished.
The Metrotown Community Plan and Burnaby’s Official Community Plan have not been amended as required under the Local Government Act to allow for the increased “s” density/FAR proposed for this site or for the four Town Centres in Burnaby. Hence the rezoning proposal appears to be illegal.
The maximum height for the R5 zoning on Silver Ave is 3 storeys.
The creation of the ‘s’ zoning in Dec 2010 was to be in the context of an amendment to the community plan including the legally required broad public consultation which was to begin “immediately” with Metrotwon but has not taken place.
Comprehensive Development designation that accompanies the “s” designation has been applied to numerous sites in Burnaby both in and out of Town Centres, but “there is no process” for this designation according to email from planning staff J Schumann. There needs to be open, transparent, known processes and public consultation for such zoning designations or pre-designations.
Mayor and Council are on the public record calling for respect for local bylaws, public consultation, transparent democratic processes, diversity, inclusion, welcome of diverse ethnic and cultural groups, concern for vulnerable families, etc. These laudable concerns need to be applied to this situation also and urgently.
2. Impact on people’s lives and our community and taxes:
The rezoning would result in eviction of the tenants from their homes in 109 units – how many people would this be? Estimate: at least 300. Hundreds have already been evicted from other buildings in Maywood.
The tenants are lower-income people many from vulnerable groups and/or with intersecting disadvantages/vulnerabilities that are eligible for protection in BC and Canadian human rights laws. These include: low-wage workers, under-employed & unemployed people, single parents and their children, immigrants, refugees, non-English speakers, elders, fixed income, persons with disabilities, ethnic and racial minorities, etc.
The tenants will not be able to afford to buy or rent the proposed condo tower units at this address or other Metrotown or Burnaby sites.
The tenants will be displaced from their homes and from their neighbourhood and community in Burnaby.
The potential rezoning and the threatened eviction of these and thousands of others in Maywood causes distress, turmoil, hardship and fear in the lives of these people.
Such distress and social marginalization are know to increase the incidence of: homelessness, violence against women, spousal abuse, child abuse and neglect, suicide and self harm, substance abuse, violent crime, sexual exploitation, radicalization, family breakdown, poverty, educational non-achievement, and adverse mental and physical health, as well as all the extreme dollar costs to taxpayers of efforts to ameliorate these easily avoidable effects.
I am told that other evicted tenants were told to “move to Surrey” by the Mayor at a Public Hearing for rezoning another Maywood building. Councillors have called the Maywood neighbourhood – which resembled parts of N Bby, Kitsilano, Montreal – a ‘slum’, a ‘ghetto’ and a ‘mistake’.
Such comments damage the reputation of Burnaby in the wider community and world.
Such comments furthermore encourage a climate of contempt and disregard for the individuals and the vulnerable groups living in the Maywood area, and for others like them elsewhere: single mother families, refugees, immigrants, ethnic/cultural/religious minorities, low-wage employees, low-income people, seniors, persons with disabilities. The climate of contempt Council is encouraging with these statement may nurtures violence towards women, sexism, racism, and social ostracicism and exclusion.
These people like all people should not be treated with dignity and respect, and not as disposable fodder for low wage employers and social service providers.
3. Density measure:
There is no guarantee of increased population density from the construction of the towers as density is not measured by population per acre, but by units per acre – according to information from planning staff L Pelletier at a Public Hearing in 2014. The tower condos proposed units may be bought and not occupied or not occupied year-round or by more than one person. Thus the goal of accommodating expected higher population under the RGS may not be met by this strategy.
4. Liability & evidence based policy on seismic issues:
A Jan 2014 highly- publicized report from UBC and UVic seismic engineers that I have brought to Council’s attention numerous times concluded that shaking from an earthquake in the lower mainland would be 3-4 times more intense than previously estimated and last longer. It stated that “tall buildings” would be particularly at risk. The report urged/recommended that community plans and building codes be updated to incorporate this new evidence. This is in line with need for evidence based policy. The proposed towers are “tall buildings”. Council’s encouraging and allowing construction of these “tall buildings” without regard for first addressing the recommended revisions of plans and building codes puts thousands of lives at unnecessary risk in the event of an expected earthquake, and may put the City of Burnaby at risk of financial liability for failure to act on existing evidence in the course of its fiduciary duties to residents and businesses.
It makes little sense to spend millions on seismic upgrades for schools when the staff, children, and parents spend far more time in homes in “tall building” that are not built to meet the current evidence base.
5. Planning process invalidated and compromised by appearance of corruption:
Council’s commitment to avoiding corruption and the appearance of corruption, and its commitment to transparency, democracy, integrity, and consultation in development in Burnaby are compromised and cast into doubt and disrepute by the Council’s political party’s acceptance of political campaign donations from both developers and development related trade unions. Donations of approx $140,000 were received in the 2014 campaign from developers alone.
Planning staff have actively favoured particular developers by recommending the services of at least one ([edited]) to a property owner considering development, and by advising another developer ([edited]) of the impending financial doom of a particular community non-profit organization ([edited]) that was facing extreme financial pressure due to high property taxes, according to an article on the Globe and Mail.
Planning staff have compromised the integrity of the planning process by stipulating requirements that do not in fact exist that favour large developers. Staff have informed property owners that assembling multiple properties is required prior to redevelopment where it is not required by anything in plans or bylaws.