Governance & Politics
November 14, 2018

City Council: Duplexing and Messaging

Council may soon be dealing with the motion presented by NPA Councillor Colleen Hardwick to reconsider the duplex rezoning passed in the last days of the previous council:

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Zoning and Development By-law No. 3575 and related changes to Strata Title Polices for RS, RT and RM Zones and RS-7 Guidelines, and RS-7 Guidelines be referred to public hearing for reconsideration by Council at the earliest date possible while giving the minimum required notice under the Vancouver Charter.

What we learn about the alignment of votes and the messages sent will be more significant than the motion.  Each councillor will be sending a message about how seriously they take the housing crisis.  Is process more important than outcomes?  Is the housing crisis not so severe that we can delay or even avoid action?  Is preserving neighbourhood character our real priority?   (What are you watching for?)

Then there are the power dynamics of the new council.  Who will align with whom?  What is the new working majority?  Is the mayor part of it?

We may know the answer in hours.  But my hunch is that the motion will be punted, somehow ending up in a city-wide planning process.

But there is one thing that should be on the record.  Hardwick’s motion states right at the beginning:

There was no meaningful public consultation prior to referral to public hearing to amend the RS zones and related strata guidelines as proposed in the Policy Report dated June 27, 2018;

And of course that’s true.  The key word is ‘meaningful’ – as defined by one of my Price Tags Laws of Public Consultation: “A consultation process is only meaningful and effectively conducted l if it comes up with a conclusion I agree with.”

The motion is also correct that there was no extensive process prior to the introduction of this ‘quick action’ proposal for duplexing, since the extensive process had occurred as part of the larger housing strategy.  Think of it like this: If the council approves a city-wise planning process, one that involves tens of thousands of people, every neighbourhood and many years, will it also require similarly extensive processes for every action that follows from the adoption of the plan?

That’s what this is in part about: to introduce a requirement for process on every action, large and small, that could change the character and scale of existing neighbourhoods.  To slow things down.  To give existing residents a right of veto.  To send a message that the housing crisis is not so severe as to quickly require a change in the status quo.

For the record, here is that process for the Housing Strategy.  Depending on what happens with Hardwick’s Motion 10, we’ll see whether very much of it mattered.


Housing Vancouver Strategy (2018 – 2027) and 3-Year Action Plan (2018 – 2020) 

Housing Vancouver: Our Process and Key Milestones

The ideas, objectives, and actions in the Housing Vancouver Strategy are the result of over a year of intensive community and partner engagement and public consultation. There have been a number of updates to Council on the evolving policy, targets, and engagement process to date, as well as a public report to Council on the Housing Vancouver Emerging directions as part of the process to arrive at a final strategy. In summary, the process included:

• Engagement with five Creative Advisory groups, comprised of local experts and stakeholders, in order to determine best practices and innovative ideas around key housing issue areas

• Multiple conversations with key stakeholders over 14 months, including the Mayors’ Advisory Committee, the Development Advisory Group, the SRO Task Force, and the Urban Development Institute

• The Re:Address Conference and Re:Address Week in October 2016, which brought together local and global experts on housing, affordability, and community development to discuss global issues around housing and cities. It successfully engaged both the public and partners, with over 35 speakers representing Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, San Francisco, New York, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Glasgow, Vienna, Melbourne, Sydney, and Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland)

• Engagement of national stakeholders in a series of discussions in fall 2016 hosted by the Federal Ministry of Finance, focusing on challenges and opportunities for expanding housing supply in Canadian cities experiencing serious housing affordability issues.

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I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of transportation professionals and policy-makers yesterday, with an agenda devoted to new technologies.  Including autonomous vehicles, of course.

If there was a consensus, it was that AVs aren’t ready for prime time – and may never be in some conditions, like complicated urban environments.  Or under adverse conditions.

That’s confirmed by a guy who should really know.

From CNET:

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This summer Price Tags wrote about the fact that 200 new measures meant to cool the housing market in China has had little impact.  Bloomberg News reports that up to 22 percent of all China’s units are vacant, representing fifty million apartment units. Even the Chinese President has gone on record stating that homes should be for living. But  real estate still has an allure in a country where home ownership was suppressed in the 20th century, and where young men raised under the One Child Policy buy units to raise their prospects of attracting a marriage.

When restrictions on housing speculation in certain cities and provinces were established, real estate capital went to places without the restrictions. Price increases have meant that many people are priced out of the market. Of course the fear is that the data about the empty units might spark a selling frenzy, sending property values crashing. Entire cities have been built anticipating future inhabitants and luring property investors. These largely uninhabited places are  called “ghost cities”.

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Can small housing do more to solve our housing crisis?

It’s just one question that will be asked at the Small Housing BC Summit, a full-day conference taking place this Saturday at Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre.

And it’s also a springboard to what could be the more important question: Can we change the way we build homes such that small housing — which SHBC defines as 200-1500 square feet — be the driver of this conversation, rather than just a passenger?

In the current Vancouver context, perhaps there’s no better debate to be having.

Tickets are still available – register by Nov. 15.

In addition to panel discussions and small housing showcases, the Summit will feature two Small Housing Challenge case studies:

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Durning picked this feature by Chris Bruntlett in the Brisbane Times:

Bike city, great city: How Vancouver can inspire a better Perth

In 2008, when Vancouver’s newly elected mayor proposed taking out a general traffic lane of a busy city bridge and replacing it with a protected bike lane, some pundits predicted it would be the end, not just the beginning, of his political career.

Television helicopters were sent to capture the impending “carmaggedon”. A prominent business leader declared it would “choke the lifeblood out of the downtown”.

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A tweet from Chris and Melissa of Modacity, touring Australia:

When Perth’s new 60,000 capacity Optus Stadium opened earlier this year, the state government decided not to build *any* public parking (patrons are offered free transit).

Instead, they built the Matagarup Bridge: a spectacular $91.5M. walking/cycling crossing of the Swan River.



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From Halifax Nova Scotia,  The Globe and Mail reports on the “Crosswalk Safety Society” that are placing “high-visibility flags” on crosswalks where there are no crossing lights and no safety features. While staff at the Halifax Regional Municipality urged Council to get rid of these flags and create safer pedestrian crossings, council voted to continue with the flags being available at those crosswalks. And these flags are not inexpensive, with the Crosswalk Safety Society shelling out $250 to outfit each crosswalk with them.

Only 2 to 6 percent of pedestrians use these flags to wave at cars when they are crossing, and when a reporter watched an intersection for two hours, pedestrians did not use the flags at all.

The concept of intersection flags have been tested in Berkeley California and in Seattle and were dismissed as being ineffective and giving pedestrians a fake sense of confidence. It also puts the onus on the pedestrian for getting the driver’s attention and stopping a vehicle, something that should be the responsibility of the driver.  For small children, using flags is one more thing to take attention away from the important task of simply safely crossing the road.

Kudos to municipal staff in Halifax that conducted their own tests at two intersections, crossing each of them three hundred times.  “They found that drivers gave way 94 per cent of the time when flags were being carried and 89 per cent of the time at crossings where there were no flags. Driver compliance was lowest, at 86 per cent, when flags were present but not carried”.

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We are now into the danger months of November, December and January when most pedestrian fatalities occur. Most are at dusk, and most when pedestrians are legally crossing the street.  It is internationally recognized that pedestrians, the most vulnerable road users can benefit from improved road design including raised crosswalks, and shorter crossing distances. Lowering road speed, changing driver behaviour and ensuring good lighting also helps. But Price Tags is exploring  examples from both ends of the country that make streets safer for pedestrians-one bureaucratic, and one flag waving.

The first post is from Victoria British Columbia where elementary students at George Jay Elementary cross the street at Cook Street between Princess and Queens Avenues. Even though there are crosswalk markings and signage vehicles do not slow down at this intersection. The crossing guard (they have those in Victoria) stated  “A lot of close calls. Holding the kid back, and if I didn’t hold the kid back, he would be under the vehicle.”

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Aaron Licker posted these maps, showing where each party got their votes.  Click here for a closer look.


The map on the lower right showing the leading vote-getters (Sim, Kennedy and Sylvester) interested me the most.  It looks pretty close to the results I remember in the elections from the 1990s, with the NPA majorities coming not just from the west side but also the southeast quadrant.

In fact, if there was a dividing line between the right and left, it wasn’t Main Street (or Cambie or Ontario, depending on your definition.)

It was Kingsway.

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Now is the time for the new council to consider a ‘congestion charge’ when (if?) it licences Uber and other ride-hailing companies to operate on city streets.*

From the Seattle Times:

The two ride-hailing giants provided more than 91,000 rides on an average day in the second quarter of this year, according to ridership reports the companies filed with the city, recently made publicly available for the first time.

While that’s just a fraction of daily travel in the Seattle region, Uber and Lyft trips are heavily concentrated in the city’s densest neighborhoods, where nearly 40,000 rides a day start in ZIP codes covering downtown, Belltown, South Lake Union and Capitol Hill. They are almost certainly contributing to worsening congestion. …

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