Governance & Politics
March 26, 2019

Strike 3 for District of No Vancouver, and a Resident Responds

Much continues to be said and written about the District of No Vancouver’s compulsive nixing of social and non-market housing projects.

In particular, current Councillor Mathew Bond is a frequent critic of the actions of his counterparts on Council. His Twitter feed serves as running commentary of No after No after No…somehow, he manages to keep an even and rational tone. Maybe just a hint of strain. The sound of one head slapping. Do you hear it?

Bond can’t afford to flame out at his colleagues too hard, because, much like a certain Federal ex-cabinet minister, he still has to work with these people, no matter how ethically challenged.

The parallel ends there, however; he’s member of an elected council, not of a party. He can’t hand in his card, cross the floor, and still keep his power. It’s a District council, and there’s no aisle to cross. He’d have to climb over the Clerk, and then where’d he be?

But he’s not the only one speaking out. Steven Petersson is a former DNV planner, and not only did he write a Master’s thesis on affordable housing provision, he worked as a residential support worker for disabled people for seven years.

In a recent letter to Mayor Little and his NIMBY cohorts — Councillors Muri, Curren, Forbes and Hanson — Petersson lays it on the line:

There’s a desperate community need for social and affordable housing.

Why put the needs of elites who already have homes over the disadvantaged who need your help?

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There is a very short video clip showing a member of the public in the City of Seattle that went to address his city council. In Seattle there is a twenty-minute time weekly for comments from the public, and Richard Schwartz had an allotted two minutes  to make his prepared remarks.Regardless of what this individual has to say, it is his right to talk to City Council in that time slot.

But when Mr. Schwartz started his presentation and noticed that no one was paying attention to him, he did what anyone would do~he politely asked for the councillors to put their phones down and give him eye contact while he spoke.

That did not go well, with the chair reminding Mr. Schwartz he was on a two minute timer and “Let’s go”. When he asked for the timer to start again, he was told no. When Mr. Schwartz began to talk about the right to speak and democracy, you can hear an audible sigh from one of the councillors.  The camera work for the City of Seattle clearly shows the deportment of the councillors, with their phones on their keyboards, looking like those school kids just waiting for the buzzer to announce detention was over.

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By the post-election decisions being made by some of the smaller, more affluent municipalities in Metro, the messages seem to be: no more density, no more height, no more affordable housing (and, rarely stated but assumed: the people who might live in it if they come from ‘outside’).

In North Vancouver District, as previously reported in PT:

District of North Vancouver council has spiked another affordable housing project, this time before plans for it were released to the public.

Council voted behind closed doors in January to terminate a proposal from the non-profit Hollyburn Family Services Society for a 100-unit, all-below market rental building on a piece of district-owned land on Burr Place.

In Port Moody:

A proposal to build 45 townhomes on six properties along St. George Street in Port Moody is “far too dense,” with not enough green space, said city councillors who rejected the project at their meeting last Tuesday. …

Mayor Rob Vagramov criticized the proposal for being too dense even though it’s located in Port Moody’s Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zone, which encourages higher density living.

In White Rock:

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One of the greatest things you can do is volunteer, and even better learn about your city while doing that. The City of Vancouver is now seeking volunteers for their Civic Advisory Committees for the following committees:

Arts and Culture Advisory Committee
Children, Youth and Families Advisory Committee
Civic Asset Naming Committee
LGBTQ2+ Advisory Committee
Persons with Disabilities Advisory Committee
Racial and Ethno-Cultural Equity Advisory Committee
Renters Advisory Committee
Seniors’ Advisory Committee
Transportation Advisory Committee
Urban Indigenous Peoples’ Advisory Committee
Vancouver Food Policy Council
Women’s Advisory Committee
Chinatown Historic Area Planning Committee
First Shaughnessy Advisory Design Panel
Gastown Historic Area Planning Committee

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In the Good News, Bad News department, Delta Optimist’s Sandor Gyarmati reports on the face-saving exercise being undertaken by Deltaport’s current container terminal operator Global Containers (GCT).  I have written about the Port of Vancouver’s  continued push for this terminal despite the fact that it is the resting grounds of hundreds of thousands of western sandpipers migrating to spring Arctic breeding grounds. These birds feed solely on an algae that is only available on the Roberts Bank mudflats. That algae cannot be moved or replaced, meaning that this important bird migration on the Pacific Flyway would be extinct with port expansion.

It was  Larry Pynn in The Province who pointed out that the written response from Environment and Climate Change Canada to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area. Last year the Port of Vancouver said they wanted to work on these issues, but as a representative from B.C. Nature said “I’d say the … port has been holed below the water line. We clearly have an environment at Roberts Bank that is fragile, that cannot withstand any more port development, and, finally, Environment Canada has come out with a definitive statement that should stop this project in its tracks.”

But back to the Terminal operator’s and the Port of Vancouver’s spin on ditching the terminal expansion, and no it is not to save the migratory birds.

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What do you do when you live in the small town of Fair Haven Vermont (population about 2,600) and you need a playground?  You pick up on an idea of having a ceremonial pet mayor to raise money  for that play area. There are several cities in the United States with pet mayors, including Omena Michigan where a cat has been mayor for six of her nine years, her election funding the local historical society for this town of 300 people.

The other advantage of having a pet mayor is providing an early introduction to kids of how a municipal election works and how it is held. The town manager allowed pets to be registered for a five dollar fee and had sixteen candidates in the running, with school children writing out campaign messages and voting for their favourite animal.

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After scrapping an 80-unit rental apartment building, with rents offered 20 per cent below market, along with a seniors’ respite centre, and after rejecting funding for the Community Housing Action Committee. (CHAC), the Council of the District of North Vancouver is now undermining an extensive consultative process for the Delbrook site.

Indeed, it has scheduled a special council workshop with only the community association that was opposed to the project.

It’s a one-item agenda with no report or guidance for the workshop.  It effectively de-legitimizes the extensive public process that involved more than just the immediate neighbours, according to Robin Prest, program director at the SFU centre for Dialogue that facilitated the process.

From the North Shore News:

“The 2015 Delbrook Lands community dialogue put the district on the map as a leader in inclusive, participatory democracy. Any future engagement process that intentionally privileges the loudest voices over the silent majority is not only undemocratic, it risks breaching the trust of those who participated in good faith in the 2015 engagement process, including many residents living immediately adjacent to the Delbrook Lands,” he said.

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As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on the subject, last night the District of North Vancouver council did what it was expected to with the affordable housing file — continue to sit on it.

Councillors voted along ideological lines, with five votes against two, declining to provide $11,512 in ongoing core funding to CHAC, the housing action arm of North Shore Community Resources.

The non-profit must now pursue alternate funding from the municipality by way of smaller grants, or discontinue plans to tackle affordable housing in 2019.

The qualities of the debate around housing in DNV have become simultaneously evidence-based, emotional, and partisan. This was on full display yesterday, demonstrated by some of the combative words from Mayor Little and other council members in their fight for or against the motion. Here are some highlights/lowlights from a watcher of the broadcast:

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It’s a motion that could be considered a little too on-the-nose.  The District of North Vancouver’s new council — which previously nixed a non-market and seniors housing project in order to preserve a parking lot —has set itself up to vote tonight on whether to grant operating funds to a housing affordability advocacy group.

Development planner Chuck Brook called out the motion in the latest episode of the Price Talks podcast, highlighting the potential for DNV to make yet another decision that not only exemplifies but exacerbates the housing problems on the North Shore.

The Community Housing Action Committee (CHAC), part of the North Shore Community Resources Society (NSCRS), provides “a tri-municipal voice and platform for discussion, sharing of ideas, advocacy, and research into housing affordability on the North Shore”. Like many other volunteer or non-profit groups — such as NS Childcare Resource & Referral, Family Services of the North Shore, or Hollyburn Family Services Society Youth Safe House — CHAC has relied on core funding from the District to fund its research, policy development and outreach activities, all focused on affordable housing advocacy.

Yet at a January 21 council meeting, DNV council passed a motion to review the CHAC funding request of $11,517.

Council has since received a report from DNV’s senior community planner Natasha Letchford, and the debate — and a decision — will likely occur this evening. (Live broadcast begins at 7pm.)

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Once again  the City of Delta Mayor (and former City Manager) George Harvie and chosen staff  are off to Ottawa on yet another annual junket to plead for several things including expediting the Massey Bridge decision. You would think taking a  $40,000 Delta  taxpayer-funded  trip to Ottawa  in  June 2018 with a side trip to Quebec would have sufficed. No surprise that the  council report for the 2019 Ottawa field trip is not an original, but is a  cut and paste of exactly the  same language and rationale  from the 2018 Council report for that Ottawa trip, undertaken a mere seven months ago.

The Ottawa meetings are being arranged by Mayor Harvie’s friend Param Grewal who ran unsuccessfully for a Delta city council position on the same slate as Mayor George Harvie. Mayor Harvie then hired Mr. Grewal as the “Director of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs” on  a six figure salary with no public posting of the position. Mr. Harvie said as Mayor it was his decision who to hire and no process was needed. Mr. Grewal is the meeting organizer for the Delta contingent to Ottawa.

You can take a look at the Council minute here about the  four-day trip that will cost tax payers $20,000 and will send the Mayor and four staff to Ottawa to deal with stuff that really could be dealt provincially and  locally by the Province or local MP.

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