Governance & Politics
October 10, 2018

Culture Change — 2018 Vancouver Civic Election

Further evidence as to the political ascendancy of a different part of our cultural mix. A younger demographic, neither left nor right.  People with media skills, energy, focus.

Oh yeah, and facing a nasty civic crisis with determination and intensity and clear political will.

Plus a message that not too long ago was the third rail, kiss of death, immediate disqualifier and prima facie proof of irrevocable electoral idiocy.

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Hot on the heels of Price Tags’ post on the basics of what CAC actually is, here’s a Vancouver civic election party promising to enable, collect and spend CAC-like proceeds in a voter-friendly way.

Yes Vancouver“Public policy changes to build the new housing we need will also create new wealth… We are going to capture part of that value for the direct benefit of the public so no one is left behind.”

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One of the more remarkable aspects of the housing affordability crisis in Vancouver is the endless bloviating about community amenity policies and consultation processes, yet we are unwilling, or unable, to discuss actual root causes.

Stuart Smith is a director of advocacy group Abundant Housing Vancouver, and has done a lot of research on factors that have gotten us to where we are today, like exclusionary zoning. My notes from a meet-up over beer in early May include the names Sonia Trauss, Kim-Mai Cutler, and Stephanie Allen.

A few weeks ago, on the first of two days of public hearings in council chambers to debate the motion to amend RS-1 zoning across much of the city to allow for duplexes — an offshoot of the Making Room report (spoiler alert: it passed) — Stuart was one of the voices supporting this motion.

He was too short on time for an anecdote which would have served as an important educational moment — he shared it with me afterwards, along with the above map:

90 years ago, Harland Bartholomew drew this map. Its explicit goal was to constrain and separate apartments, and people who live in apartments, from detached homes, and the people who live in detached homes.

Many proponents of this map knew it would ghettoize apartments, and the racialized and marginalized people who were most likely to inhabit them at that time. They considered this a feature, not a bug.

This was a radical change to traditional ways of building a city. It’s been 90 years. The experiment has failed. It’s time to move on. It’s time to make room.

It’s possible this 90-year old zoning plan ultimately influenced the housing tempest we find ourselves in today.

If you buy into the idea that past is prologue — or, if you’re skeptical of Making Room and the duplex motion in general — watch and listen to the final 90 seconds of his Stuart’s actual presentation. It’s worth it:

The full text of Stuart’s five-minute presentation to Council follows.

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Traffic congestion on Georgia and Pender last night.  What could we possibly do about it?  Scott de Lange Boom provided a perspective.

Lets assume each car has one person and the congestion extends all the way to the viaducts. That is 1.9 km, lets assume 15 percent of that is intersections. Assuming each car occupies about five metres, each lane would have 323 cars. With five lanes of traffic, that is 1,615 people. An articulated bus can carry 104 people. That is about 16 buses worth of people.

Those 16 buses would occupy one lane for two blocks.

But here’s the thing: it wouldn’t take 16 buses full of passengers who shifted from driving to get the traffic moving – maybe only two or three, depending on the latent demand.

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Small Housing BC (SHBC), a Vancouver-based non-profit advocating for smaller housing forms throughout British Columbia, is hosting the Small Housing Summit this November 17th.

The first event of its kind in Canada, the SHBC Summit will feature industry leaders in design, policy, outreach, finance, real-estate, construction — basically anyone interested in, or already working with, smaller typologies. Given the need to accelerate the development of new housing options in BC and beyond, this is a must-attend event.

Saturday, November 17, 2018
Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre

More info & Registration – Early Bird Deadline is Sept. 30

SHBC is also inviting any groups or individuals facing barriers working on small housing projects to apply to the Small Housing Challenge case study series.

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What’s happened with zoning changes in Vancouver is a cultural change, and a fight that’s as old as Vancouver.  The arguements are the same, the type of associations are the same; but the lack of political will to engage the fight in the name of renters, density and affordability may be changing.

The upcoming civic election will tell whether those with the will to make greater and more significant change will assume power, or whether things will go back to same-old, same-old, with all power going to neighbourhood associations themselves to ensure that middle-density rental buildings are excluded.

The messages’ media has certainly changed, but not much else.

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I’m going to claim credit for that line.  It’s something I coined after sitting through countless hours of public hearings, listening to delegations who didn’t want to come out and actually oppose a change in their neighbourhood (especially something like a greenway that might be for the good of the city as a whole but brought outsiders into their community.)

Instead they would argue that the process itself was so inadequate, flawed or corrupted that the motion should be defeated or deferred until a fair and comprehensive process was conducted.  That was the argument heard frequently at the recently completed public hearing on duplex zoning for RS-1.

It’s not just the delegations who use that strategy; it’s a favourite of councillors who certainly don’t want to oppose initiatives for more housing but also don’t want to vote in favour of something adamantly opposed by existing residents.  Like Melissa DeGenova: “At this point in time, I will not be supporting this.  I just don’t support a process that hasn’t engaged people.”

There is no process that will likely be acceptable to those who oppose a change unless it is resolves in their favour. For, after all, if the process worked, it would have come to the conclusion they agreed with.

I like Frances Bula’s recent tweet:

I would pay money to have a speaker at a public hearing say someday: “Your process was very good, you engaged with a lot of people and explained the proposal clearly, but I happen to disagree with what you want to do.”

 

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This housing complex being erected by the City on Larwill Park (presumed site of the new Art Gallery and office tower) will, with 98 units, be the largest modular housing for the homeless so far.  (More here.)

Modular housing is coming of age.  With no pretense of being architecturally significant, it nonetheless fits in, especially among the residential towers that typify the style of our time.  Indeed, it’s a good example of the importance of the ‘missing middle’ – low- and medium-rise development that offers a horizontal relief to the excesses of the vertical city.  More importantly, it provides a place for people whose only alternative is the street itself.

 

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The temperature is going up.  As the election approaches and the City moves towards a ‘Making Room’ rezoning in traditional neighbourhoods, positions are hardening.

On one hand, a desire to take change slow (if not stop it outright), reflected in the columns of Elizabeth Murphy in The Sun, especially her latest: “city hall is slamming through destructive new zoning.

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 most recent example is the rushed rezoning of Kitsilano RT7/RT8, Cedar Cottage RT10 and all the RS zones citywide of 68,000 properties, all without public consultation. The public hearing for all of this is coming Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. 

But there’s another constituency, rarely if ever heard until recently, that insists these changes are not ambitious enough.  Some of them composed an open letter to Council to spell out what they mean and what they want.  Here it is:

 

Comments to the proposed Amendments to the Zoning and Development By­law for Most RS Zones to Allow Two-­Family Dwellings (Duplexes) to Increase Housing Choice

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