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More Waldorf: Former senior planner notes that there is strong protection already to prevent rampant condo development on Waldorf site

January 15th, 2013 · 38 Comments

Hard to keep up with this story, I know, what with new revelations every day that the Waldorf Productions partners weren’t the flushest, or perhaps savviest, of business people (as per Charlie Smith’s story that I tweeted yesterday).

Then there’s the whole “Hastings is being turned over to condo developers” meme to contend with.

Helping bring some clarity, former senior planner Trish French outlines for council (and us) the zoning situation in the area. She sent her letter off yesterday:

January 14, 2013

 

Dear Mayor and Council:

Re: Waldorf Situation: A Simpler Solution

Much has been said in the media about saving the Waldorf as a cultural space and/or a heritage asset.   There has been a bit of a “Chicken Little” quality to the whole situation.  I am puzzled that nothing has said by you, or anyone else, about the City’s zoning and land use policy on the site, which provides a simple direction on the issue of the site’s purchase by a condo developer.

The existing MC-2 mixed use zoning on the Waldorf site, and along the north side of Hastings from Clark to Semlin,  does not permit development of condos.   This is in contrast to the MC-1 zoning on the south side of Hastings in the same strip, which does permit residential, and where some developments are going forward.

The MC-2 zoning was adopted after a thorough study.   I was the planner in charge when the zoning was adopted in 2002, so I am familiar with the background.  Why no market residential on the north side of Hastings?  Because immediately adjacent is a long term, heavy industrial M-2 zone which is an important location for fairly noxious processing and port-related businesses.  Chicken-processing plant, anyone?  The City already had unhappy experience of market housing being built in and next to similar industrial areas, and new residents moaning about trains, trucks, fumes, etc.  As important as cultural spaces like the Waldorf are to Vancouver’s vibrancy, the viability of the Port of Vancouver is even more critical, I would think.  And while Council overturned a similar policy of no residential in the industrial area at Marine and Cambie, the rational there was the new Canada Line Station.

The only exception to the no residential policy in the MC-2 area is for social housing—no “affordable”, “market rental”, or market/non market combinations: the policy specifies social, i.e. non-market, housing.  This has to be done via a rezoning and it is not intended to be automatically supported, as social housing is elsewhere in the City.

So my question is, why don’t the Mayor and Council publicly and strongly reiterate the City’s  land use policy, and let Solterra (and other speculators) know that condominiums are not in the cards?

While under the MC-2 zoning mixed commercial/industrial development may occur on the Waldorf site, it will likely be a fair way off in the future. If Solterra has finalized the land purchase, they may be reasonable landlords for the Waldorf folks.  And if they have not, then they have an opportunity to back out of it.

In the absence of such public statements from the Mayor and Council, it appears that the developer has already had encouragement for condominiums from the City, either from politicians or staff.

Saving the Waldorf as cultural/heritage asset using CAC’s, bonussing (heritage or cultural) etc., will be very costly in terms of foregone opportunities to save other, frankly more important, assets.  Standing behind the City’s own logically-conceived long-term land use policy is easier, cheaper, and the right thing to do.

I hope you will respond to this letter, and to my suggestion.

Best regards,

 

Trish French

Retired Assistant Director of Planning, City of Vancouver

 

P.S.  Here is the link to the Council Report about the MC-2 zoning http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/020314/p1.htm; and to the rezoning policy for social housing http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/guidelines/M010.pdf.  I also note that the Hastings strip west of Clark to Heatley , where a major rezoning  at 955 E Hastings has recently been approved with a combination of market and affordable housing, was not included in the policy because it was part of the DTES Housing Plan area and was supposed to be deal with as a follow up to that.  It never was, more’s the pity.

Categories: Uncategorized

38 responses so far ↓

  • 1 waltyss // Jan 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    While I am not aware that there is a rezoning application before council for that site, the Mayor and Council have to be fairly circumspect in terms of keeping an open mind in the event a rezoning application does come forward.
    That said, I would like to hear from the Mayor and the City Manager that no-one at the city is inviting a rezoning application for that site either openly or with a wink and a nod.
    Otherwise, a great letter from Ms. French adding some well needed facts to this issue.

  • 2 GSA // Jan 15, 2013 at 2:26 pm

    Bravo for adding some sane, rational thought to the situation. We also need to be clear as a City organization, if we intend to restrict owners’ ability to sell properties that should be up front and clear. The owner of the Waldorf is doing nothing wrong, against some policy or standard and neither is the company that bought it. If it was purchased by a individual or company not know to develop condominiums, would there be such outcry?

  • 3 Mike Klassen // Jan 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    “So my question is, why don’t the Mayor and Council publicly and strongly reiterate the City’s land use policy, and let Solterra (and other speculators) know that condominiums are not in the cards?”

    Not to be too glib, Trish, but this question shows that you’re a planner and not a politician. The reason why the Mayor nor council members are clearing up this misunderstanding publicly is that it provides them no political benefit whatsoever.

    What does benefit politicians is tweeting out to their supporters how they will “fix” the problem.

    What seems imminent now that the city is seeking heritage status is Solterra Group will be provided with a substantial density bonus to offset their loss.

    As you say, more’s the pity. Thanks for your letter.

  • 4 Frank Ducote // Jan 15, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks for the informed background, Trish. My hunch is, no staff member dares speak out to publicly clarify this or any other ituation, under the present regime’s ways of acting. Too scared and no upside, IMO.

    I’m still looking forward to Mr. Jackson’s hopefully positive impacts on the culture of the planning department, to increase staff’s willingness to step forward and do their job. (Yoohoo, Brian!! Where art thou?)

    Everything involving development seems to require a political response – or not – these days rather than a policy/planning/zoning one. At least when Brent Toderian or Larry Beasley was in office there would a person who could/would step up to publicly clarify matters. One may agree or disagree with the response, but at least would have been one. It is a shame that it took a retired staff person like yourself to do so.

    A a deeper level, the bigger concern I have about municipal governance is about the way Council has been operating under the Vision regime, which more closely resembles a majority parliamentary structure and operation. Even non-Vision members of Council describe themselves as “the opposition.” What’s up with that?? This is not the traditional – theoretically at least – more inclusive consensus-building and, yes, messy model of civic governance, and we see the results and discontent around us almost every day.

  • 5 Silly Season // Jan 15, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you, Trish French.

    And to posts #1 thru 3: Amen. Amen. Amen.

  • 6 tf // Jan 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Ms. French’s letter points out the problem with policies and politicians – policies are only as good as the people who enforce them. A new person is elected and acts on their own initiative without first exploring existing policy.
    She points out the 955 E Hastings development – there is a DTES Housing Plan but no one is following the plan! Thus we get spot rezoning and communities on the street in protests.
    It’s a poor model to use for good governance.

  • 7 Silly Season // Jan 15, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Soryy, @Frank Ducote. I can’t count. I liked your comment at #4 too. ;-) And I may as well throw in @tf #6.

  • 8 InsiderDoug // Jan 15, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Well said, Frank, and thanks Ms French! Yes, for decades it would have been the Planning department quickly clarifying this situation and such like this – fast, no fuss. Now City Hall is clamped up so tight, no ones allowed to talk without Dr. Ballem’s scrutiny. Truth is less important than political advantage. And I haven’t seen anything different from Brian J – he’s part of that system, Penny’s guy fer sure. So Sorry Frank, don’t get your hopes up.

    Sad.

  • 9 Bill McCreery // Jan 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Gosh it’s refreshing to read your letter Trish, and astute comments that follow. Your letter certainly highlights the significant shortcomings of the present Council majority with respect to their handling of land-use and planning matters. In addition, it reveals the kinds of chaos that the present Council’s ‘every property in the City and anything goes on it’ policies create. These are not policies that create planned stable, cohesive urban environments, but rather the opposite: socially and economically unstable chaos. This is not planning, rather it’s anti-planning.

  • 10 Claudia // Jan 15, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Thanks to Frank Ducote:
    “At a deeper level, the bigger concern I have about municipal governance is about the way Council has been operating under the Vision regime, which more closely resembles a majority parliamentary structure and operation. Even non-Vision members of Council describe themselves as “the opposition.” What’s up with that?? This is not the traditional – theoretically at least – more inclusive consensus-building and, yes, messy model of civic governance, and we see the results and discontent around us almost every day.”

    Wow! Yes Frank you have nailed the problems so perfectly. Why don’t the media pick up on this? It is really scary they are ignoring this issue. Thx so very much for raising this. How can we get more media paying attention?

  • 11 David Gibson // Jan 16, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Well said, Trish! I hope you copied that letter to a lot of media outlets; it deserves wider circulation (with apologies to Frances).

  • 12 Mark Vulliamy // Jan 16, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Trish’s analysis and Frank’s comments are bang on target. The point about a transition to a parliamentary structure and operation is highly significant and, until now, has been largely overlooked. Given that the Mayor and City Manager are from a context where “the government” is the dominant party in the “house” it is not surprising they have brought this model into the civic arena. Accordingly, Vision policy is City policy, whether or not a formal decision has been taken by Council , and the City Manager acts and gives directives on this basis. A profound shift in past City Hall practice and one deserving much greater scrutiny.

  • 13 Janet Fraser // Jan 16, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Thank you Trish for getting the background information to us. I think the balance between good planning and good politics is hard to pinpoint. As you say industrial land at Marine & Cambie was rezoned for the popular residential units at Marine Gateway – PCI’s Andrew Grant was listed in Vancouver Magazine’s 2012 Power 50 with the quote “He also ended up in a three-year tussle with the planning department to get its land rezoned. In the end, the project went ahead, and his chief sparring partner, city planner Brent Toderian, was gone.”

  • 14 InsiderDoug // Jan 16, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    Frank, you say in public what staffers have been saying inside City Hall for 4 years now – its been referred to as “politicization” but its really about a provincial-ish way of thinking, “yes minister,” us vs them approach where staff have gone from smart confident professionals, to gun-shy, keep-your-head-down, speak-when-your-spoken-to people. The old-timers like me, anyway, who have been here for years with a lot of pride in our careers. The new people, Penny-hires, are just back-slappers and yes-people. Or should I say Yes-Penny-People.

    “The bigger concern I have about municipal governance is about the way Council has been operating under the Vision regime, which more closely resembles a majority parliamentary structure and operation. Even non-Vision members of Council describe themselves as “the opposition.” What’s up with that?? This is not the traditional – theoretically at least – more inclusive consensus-building and, yes, messy model of civic governance, and we see the results and discontent around us almost every day.”

    Exactly. Bang-on.

    “At least when Brent Toderian or Larry Beasley was in office there would a person who could/would step up to publicly clarify matters.”

    Very true, but there’s no place in Today’s City Hall for people like Toderian and Beasley, or Spaxman for that matter. Or Grey, or Andrews, or many others. They would actually speak, say what they think, and not worry about political credit, making one party look good and the others look bad.

    Dead breed. Killed breed.

    Thats not how things work anymore, don’t you know? We all know it in City Hall, and hoped people out there would care. But reporters aren’t writing about it, so who would even know to complain?

    Frances, what do you think about Franks point? Why don’t reporters write about it? Its news, surely. Don’t you care?

    Not with a bang, but with a whimper…

  • 15 West End Gal // Jan 17, 2013 at 11:19 am

    What Silly Season #4 said:
    “Thank you, Trish French.
    And to posts #1 thru 3: Amen. Amen. Amen.”
    After reading them all…
    What the hell. I’ll throw in my support for all of them 1-14 ! :-)

  • 16 Bill McCreery // Jan 18, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Frances (and other Vancouver journalists), I’d like to hear your response to Doug’s request @ 14.

    Why aren’t the media writing about this, and as well, a host of other obvious significant, questionable Vision Vancouver practises such as: Where’s our tax money going and why? Why are bike lanes ploughed before vehicle lanes? Why is Council repeatedly ignoring Council approved policies and by-laws (the Zoning Bylaw for instance)? What are the criteria for hiring new staff? What happens to staff reports between the staff writing them, Penny and co. ‘massaging’ them and daylight? Are public consultation efforts real or just going through the motions? Why are transit estimates wildly skewed to ensure the favoured option looks good?

    I had hopes that Jeff Lee, and for that matter you would do the investigative research to get answers to these and many other questions that come up week in and week out.

    On the other hand Doug, there’s always the tried and true custom of brown envelopes pushed under a friendly door. Is it that Balem has every staffer so afraid that even that is not possible?

  • 17 waltyss // Jan 18, 2013 at 11:26 am

    I dunno, Bill McCreery, was a similar study done by the press when your party, the NPA, was in power? I do not recall you questionning the NPA approach which was if anything more controlling when you ran for them?
    Or are we just trying to keep our name out there for 2014? Just asking.

  • 18 Bill McCreery // Jan 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Thank you Waltyss 17 for worrying about whether or not I’m going to run in 2014. It takes a great load off my shoulders. As well, I’m no more interested in keeping my name out there than you appear to be. That has never been my motivation for commenting publicly. Discussing issues and ideas is and I’ll continue doing so in spite of your intimidation tactics.

    Not sure what you mean by the “the NPA approach which was if anything more controlling when you ran for them?”. I ran with the NPA because they recommend good candidates who will make independent decisions. Finally, evidently you were not privy to what happened inside the NPA campaign Waltyss because in fact I did strenuously question the “NPA approach”.

  • 19 Chris Keam // Jan 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    “Why are bike lanes ploughed before vehicle lanes?”

    Why are you perpetuating a fallacy?

  • 20 Bill McCreery // Jan 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Chris, ask those, including apparently Cllr. Afflect, who had to drive in the bike lanes because the vehicle lanes weren’t ploughed.

  • 21 Chris Keam // Jan 20, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    I’m asking you Bill. Provide some evidence of your assertion or withdraw it.

  • 22 derp // Jan 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    NPA desperately needs a re-branding, and it’s not going to win my vote back by latching on to the leg of issues like plowing.

    “Chris, ask those, including apparently Cllr. Afflect, who had to drive in the bike lanes because the vehicle lanes weren’t ploughed.”

    It’s true! Just ask my colleague!

  • 23 waltyss // Jan 20, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Mr. McCreery: Is calling you to put up or shut up too bully like or intimidating when you claim that bike lanes are ploughed before vehicle lanes. Where? When? Your language, undoubtedly carefully chosen, suggests this was policy which I expect was nonsense. I drove that day from Dunbar to the downtown core and saw no evidence of it. But in your rant you perpetuate the canard.
    Oh, and what is a city councillor doing, driving in the bike lanes? Did he have winter tires? If not he was a menace to those of us who were on the roads properly prepared for winter driving.

  • 24 InsiderDoug // Jan 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Waltyss – I’ve been at City hall a long time, and have my own complaints about the NPA (can you say municipal strike?) – BUT the NPA did NOT have a similar or worse approach, that i ever saw, to the issues I and Frank Ducote have raised.

    Whatever else they are or were, they understood and respected Staff’s role, in my experience, and it wasn’t anywhere near as controlled, wasn’t politicized that I saw, wasn’t like a Ministry under them. All these things are new, and unique to the Ballem era. Callin it like it is.

    But before Bill McCreery starts bragging and thanking me, he himself does not have a good reputation for these things with Staff. His rep with Staff I’ve talked to is that he disrespects us, misquotes us, and takes every opportunity for political points even if he has to slam staff to do it. From what I’ve seen, thats a Bill trait, not an NPA trait.

    I ain’t political. I’m a Staffer. Callin it like I see it, and like I’ve heard it.

  • 25 Bill McCreery // Jan 21, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    @ CK 20′s.
    Not sure how you missed all the media coverage Chris. Please Google: Affleck bike lanes snow for your morning reading.

    Sorry for delay. I don’t get paid to post here.

  • 26 Chris Keam // Jan 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Bill:

    I saw the media coverage. The claim remains bogus and unproven. There’s no evidence bike lanes were prioritized ahead of vehicle lanes. They are part of the city’s first batch of roadways that get plowed. Here’s the link:

    http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/snow-removal-from-city-streets.aspx

    Are you suggesting I am paid to post? ROTFLMAO

    It’s time to stop playing politics with cyclists’ safety. One would think the NPA would have learned this lesson by now, but you seem to be one member of the party eager to accelerate the death spiral.

  • 27 InsiderDoug // Jan 22, 2013 at 8:38 am

    New Business – Money and donations talk, Brian Jackson does as he’s commanded… all part of what Frank D was talking about!!

    Sad.

    http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/vancouver-planning-department-shatters-previous-council-decision/article7616538/?service=mobile

  • 28 Joe Just Joe // Jan 22, 2013 at 9:07 am

    Didn’t see any plows of either kind but last week the bike lane along Burrard st (Hastings-Canada Place) was very heavily salted while neither Burrard/Hastings/Cordova/Canada Place were. I thought it was humourous and even considered taking a pic, it was so salted that it looked like a thick layer of frost.
    Back onto the topic, do we know if Waldorf productions left the property in pristine condition? My understanding is they had sunken a lot of money into the building, did they remove some of the improvements they made?

  • 29 Bill McCreery // Jan 22, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Chris you are evidently so emotionally involved with promoting cycling that it is not possible to have a rational conversation with you about the topic. The other readers here do not need such unnecessary diversions. In addition, you know full well that I have supported bike lanes for years and approved the installation of Vancouver’s 1st separated lane on the Stanley Park Seawall in 1974. So it seems it is you who are playing politics here, not me.

  • 30 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Typical. When faced with a direct question and the expectation for some semblance of evidence on a topic brought up by the original poster no less, said individual attacks the motivation of the person making the enquiry.

  • 31 Chris Keam // Jan 22, 2013 at 10:35 am

    “Vancouver’s 1st separated lane on the Stanley Park Seawall in 1974″

    btw – it’s a shared path and one of the most common places in the city for ped/bike collisions, injuries, and conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists. You might want to revisit your own handiwork to observe the contrast between it and ‘real’ separated lanes that make life safer and easier for everybody.

  • 32 waltyss // Jan 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Mr. McCreery: You are doing a good job of proving the accuracy of Insider Doug’s comments at #24.
    Simple question, really, what evidence do you have that the bike lanes were a priority over the plowing/salting of roads? Hope the question is not too bullying or intimidating.

  • 33 Bill McCreery // Jan 23, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    @ Doug 24.
    Sorry to others interested in the subject of post, but I must clarify my take on Doug’s comments concerning my relationship with staff. I’m sorry you think I’m ‘bragging’, I’m not sure about what, but I will say that I have in the past said that I’m very proud of what we in TEAM did accomplish when I was elected in the 70’s. If that’s bragging, I’m guilty.

    I think you misunderstand where I come from Doug regarding your suggestion that I ‘disrespect and misquote staff, and take every opportunity for political points even if I have to slam staff to do it.’ If I’ve misquoted any staff I did not do so intentionally and particularly just to score political points at their expense. I would appreciate you or any other staff contacting me to discuss any such occurrences and I will be happy to make amends.

    In the context of recent staff interactions it is not correct to say that I do not respect individual staff, but rather in specific instances I have disagreed with what they said and how they exercise their responsibilities. In the present politically charged atmosphere at City Hall unfortunately it appears to many citizens, not just me, that staff are being coerced to carry out their duties in ways that some might consider to be compromising. I point out that there have been former staff and even some still there who have directly or indirectly confirmed this here and to me personally. As well, I understand some staff have left or taken early retirement.

    Because I care deeply about the wellbeing of our City my reaction to these ‘messengers’ has been critical, but if you look at what I’ve actually said my primary focus has been on the message not the messenger. I am not perfect by any means and there have been times in the heat of the moment when I have criticized the person. As I recall that is limited to me expressing my disagreement with them such as: ‘how could you as a professional take such a position?’ Is that fair or unfair criticism? Shouldn’t one be allowed to ask such questions? That can be looked at two ways, first the traditional ‘don’t criticize staff, focus on the policies, implementation and the politicians’. In most cases I believe I have adhered to that, however, as above, it is sometimes difficult to separate the deliverer from the message, and at time the deliverer might take my criticism of what they are doing or not personally. I cannot control that.

    Here are some examples of my staff interactions that may shed some light on this matter:

    • The WEN group met with Brent T. early on in the Comox over height, 5 times over density spot rezoning. He spent 1 ½ hours talking nonstop of his view of the situation and community consultation in particular. The group members had prepared extensive presentations; they had 15 minutes left to do so. Given I was involved in creating the present human street scale zoning in that sub-neighbourhood I am particularly offended seeing what I consider to be misguided ad hoc anti-planning interventions that will seriously compromise the family focus in this high density community. And, yes Brent, in the manner he spoke, was a strong advocate for what 10,000++ West Enders had rejected. I disagreed with him strongly and have said so.

    • The planner at the public showing of the 3 times over height and 2 ½ times over density on a postage stamp 100×130 site giving nothing whatsoever back to the neighbourhood spot rezoning at Hornby and Drake literally laughed off my concerns and said as far as he was concerned the higher the better. Do I respect someone, supposedly trained to understand what makes ‘community planning’ who work, does this? No, sorry.

    • The planners (the 3rd or 4th team over a +/-5 year period) doing the Norquay Plan had completely lost the trust of the neighbourhood planning committee in no small part because they were imposing extensive increases in densities and heights, and housing types and Kingsway built forms that were excessive and inappropriate in my view as well as that of the community representatives. It got so bad the Brent T. had to come to what I recall was the last meeting to try, unsuccessfully, to create some semblance of respectability before the plan was rubber-stamped by Council. It’s difficult to sit and watch such a poorly handled spectacle. In my view criticism of not just the results, but also the process was justified.

    • The Cambie Corridor plan is not planning, it is an easy picking real estate grab by politicians/planners (?). A ‘corridor’ is a means of getting somewhere, not a basis to build healthy, sustainable communities upon. Whoever came up with this aka: ‘strip mall’ notion has succeeded in warehousing people, but not creating walkable, vibrant neighbourhoods. My interpretation is reinforced by, among others, the lack of any meaningful additional park space in the plan in spite of increasing the population in the plan alone by 15,000+/-. As well, in my opinion it is inappropriate to use a developer’s renderings for a not yet approved spot rezoning in a planning document to be approved by Council. Shouldn’t someone speak up and point these shortcomings out? There were some good things about what that planning team did and I expressed that to them, and have subsequently had at least some more positive interactions.

    • The Marine Gateway debacle is an extension of the above. I was not the only professional with serious reservations about the wisdom of piling up way too much density at this location. The rationalizations for doing so were difficult to stomach. Unfortunately, these were often delivered by staff, both planning and engineering. So, where’s the rub, the message or the messenger? It’s difficult to separate them.

    • The RIZE spot rezoning situation was similar to Marine Gateway. I was particularly disappointed by the staffer’s Council presentation at the public hearing, and afterwards I told her so.

    • The Engineering Department says on one hand they want to hear what people want re: transit, but by their statements, including at Council and before Council approval, they have made it clear that they will have an unaffordable underground system along Broadway. It has been suggested by knowledgeable others that their cost estimates for surface alternatives are surprisingly high. In addition, it appears they are not interested in what impacts their preferred system will have on the kind of city Vancouverites will end up with. This is a hugely important matter and the options and their alternatives deserve a full, fair and balanced discussion by all, including Engineering.

    These are almost all of my interactions with staff over the recent past. As I said above, it’s hard to separate the message from the messenger, and perhaps there has been misunderstandings of that by staff as well as myself. Unfortunately, the politicians have put staff into the position of being on the front line. I wish it were otherwise, and one of my many frustrations with the present situation is that I know there are far better ways to conduct real community planning that would make such negative interactions between staff and citizens unnecessary. And, Doug, you are right, the expression of my opinions and the manner in which I do so are my own. It is done because I care depply, not because I’m scoring “political points”.

  • 34 InsiderDoug // Jan 24, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Bill, I want you to know I’ve talked with a few other key staff, before writing this reply to your long comment, to make sure I’m being accurate (fair?? not sure what right word is) in how i describe at least some staff’s feelings/observations. Having said that, the comments are my own…

    My reference to “bragging” was about thinking you might chortle (am i using that word right??) about the fact I was saying that the new politicized City Hall was a Vision/Ballem thing, and not an NPA thing, and use it to start another “my party is better than your party” thing.

    But now that you mention it, I’ve heard many times that you kinda overstate your short involvement in the 70′s about the Seawall, etc… (I’ve been around a long time, but not that long, so i dont know personally) so maybe bragging is the right word. Maybe you had an influence, maybe you were “just there” on Park Board but either way, that was the 70′s, and the rest of the politicians from that that era have moved on… what have you done lately?

    As for the Staff relationship, you say:

    “In the present politically charged atmosphere at City Hall unfortunately it appears to many citizens, not just me, that staff are being coerced to carry out their duties in ways that some might consider to be compromising. I point out that there have been former staff and even some still there who have directly or indirectly confirmed this here and to me personally. As well, I understand some staff have left or taken early retirement.”

    There is truth to that, as all readers here know – but staff are working really really REALLY hard to maintain their professionalism in this new Ballem regime. Some great people left, or were firmly pushed out, people I really respected even though by your comments above, you apparently didn’t. We want the other great ones left, to stay.

    You are not seen as an ally/helpful voice to staff in this. I suppose thats not a surprise, since i doubt that was your goal.

    You are seen to make it harder, worse, spreading unfair negative messages, gossip – at absolute best, your own opposition group’s perspective as “truth,” – at worst strategically lying or exaggerating? I hope not. Either way, weakening the respect and positioning that good staff are trying to maintain in order to do a good job for everyone.

    You have not been helping, and that is why you are seen as part of the problem. However you chose to justify your approach, thats how its seen.

    The way you once again characterized staff’s work above, is a good example. You’re doing it again. Should I give you the benefit of the doubt and say this is your honest perspective of these events with staff, and not scoring political points with the communities and opposition groups that i understand you tend to frequent? Sorry, I trust Staff’s account of these events more than yours.

    Its not because you’re “the messenger” – Its because you’re not a credible one. The stories you tell above, which we’ve heard before, have been refuted by staffers of higher integrity and credibility than you (but who aren’t able to fight back either publicly or through social media) – so you are not believed.

    Other people, including community members, have called you out on this site, doing better jobs than I am doing now (such as in the marine & cambie situation, i recall), so its not just a staffer observation.

    So now, I’m the messenger. To you. Go ahead and shoot me, if you want. But its the truth as i see it, and I’m not alone, so you might choose to seriously think about it, if you want to hold office again, and have a working relationship with Staff. Or even if you don’t.

    You’ve used this site as a pulpit for a while – well, live by the sword, die by the sword.

    If you really do what you do because you care for this city, as you say, I commend that. But you can do it differently.

  • 35 Bill McCreery // Jan 24, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    @ Doug 34.

    I will reply as briefly as I can to the above.

    I understand the politicization process is inevitably always present, in the past mostly to a lesser degree, but it seems to have ramped up a bit in the Sullivan era, and seriously so today. You misunderstand where I come from Doug with respect to the NPA/Vision matter. I’d be happy to have a coffee with you. Because I ran with the NPA does not mean that I share the grossly over-simplified image of what an NPAer is ‘supposed’ to be. There have been many NPA representatives that also do not correlate with that image.

    My involvement in the 70s was short, but intense and we were effective. Please clarify as to how I have “overstated” that involvement with respect to the “Seawall, etc.”. With respect to the Seawall the bike/pedestrian conflict had become a problem so the Commissioners at the time, including myself, worked with staff and created a Stanley Park Seawall bike path. It was/is separated where-ever possible over the majority of it’s length either physically, vertically and/or with a curb. At the time I was Chair of the Park Board Planning and Development Committee and I advocated and voted for it. That was my role in that instance. When we chat perhaps I can also tell you about my role in other accomplishments at that time if you are interested.

    I’m in touch with a number of the politicians of that time and they are no happier than I am with the present City Hall direction. I am younger than most of them and have decided to make my views known. What is wrong with that?

    ‘What have I done lately’? Well, my short involvement in the 70s was in part because I am not a ‘politician’ 1st. I was elected to accomplish certain goals, we did achieve more than 3/4s of those and I retired from the political scene. I also had a family and had to make a living. I’m personally quite happy, thank you, with what I’ve done lately. Please note that I am not asking the same question of you. I have not felt compelled to get re-involved politically until recently until the initiatives of the present regime, starting with the Bloedel misadventure. When I focused on what was really going on and the implications, I became very concerned.

    I’m glad to hear that staff is working hard to maintain their professionalism. I thank them. It must be very discouraging to have your reports rewritten and to be sitting in meetings, sometimes with consultants, working and thinking through a particular matter and to have Ms. Ballem interrupt the meeting to announce this is the objective and results you are to achieve, then get up and leave, all in two minutes.

    Who have I not respected that has left Doug? I only know of one person who has gone to graduate school I believe who has left of the staff I’ve interacted with. I am not condemning staff as such, but my comments above are accurate summations of my understanding and my view of what was occurring in each case. The present political regime has put staff in an untenable position, and as I said above, it’s difficult to separate the message and the messenger. And, I know there are better ways to do the planning and development of this City. I am sorry that you misunderstand the motivation behind my criticisms. If planning were done properly, both staff and citizens would be able to work together in a more positive, constructive and ultimately creative environment. It may be difficult to appreciate that I am, in fact, very supportive of staff, but you must be allowed to work as professionals. If you really want to better understand my “goal” let us please talk one to one. I find your suggestion that it is ‘not to be an ally/helpful to staff’ to be off base and offensive.

    You suggest again that I have ‘spread unfair negative messages, gossip, strategically lying or exaggerating’. What determines what is ‘unfair’, or ‘negative’? Your suggestion that I have ever “strategically” lied or even exaggerated is particularly offensive. Those are serious allegations Doug. In fairness, please be more specific. Your suggestion that you “hope not” suggests you question to validity of your previous statement. I, in the alternative, hope you do. How is discussing and critiquing planning and development activities “weakening the respect and positioning that good staff are trying to maintain in order to do a good job for everyone”? I accept that there may be some short-term difficulty, but what, in my view, is an intolerable and unacceptable modus operandi (am I correct for you as well?) that has already done enough damage to the City, must be changed. It appears that change will not come from within, so as a concerned citizen I, and many others are speaking out. I would ask you and your colleagues to look at such criticism carefully and try to separate the message from the messenger both ways.

    I take exception that you question my integrity Doug. And, I gather your idea of what the “problem” is somewhat different from mine. Again, opportunities to discuss such things more fully would be helpful. I was not impressed with some aspects of the work I have seen, but is that the fault of staff or staff being put into untenable situations. I think probably more the latter. However, perhaps this illustrates the difficulties of the message separation problem (both ways). You do a disservice by suggesting that one person’s take has more validity than another’s. If people are genuinely interacting shouldn’t both perspectives be respected? There have been many citizens who have been directly critical of staff, however, believe it or not I do TRY to focus on the issue and the process. I am detecting, in the circumstances understandable, defensiveness in your tone Doug. I don’t think I, by myself have caused that degree of defensiveness.

    You’ll not doubt be happy to know that I do not have future political aspirations and I have participated in discussions and disagreements here, but “pulpit” is one of several of your own ‘exaggerations’ Doug. On the few occasions when I’ve erred here, as a regular reader you should be aware, I’ve withdrawn my comments and/or apologized. I do not think my participation here is that different than many other regular contributors, in fact recently I’ve commented less frequently.

    By exchanging points of view and disagreeing I have learned a lot here. I would hope that you, other staff and I can do the same. As above, I welcome any opportunity to communicate meaningfully, including how to “do it differently”.

  • 36 Bill Lee // Feb 4, 2013 at 2:21 am

    So I see in the latest Globe and Mail gentrification promotion that the Acme garment factory on the block to the east of the Waldorf will become one of the Loblaw supermarkets.
    I can foresee many car crashes (Never Accidents) at those intersections and wild confrontations with the “customers” supercilious security guards, worse if they try 24 hours as they have done recently.

    Meanwhile Boffo, friend of Bosa, and developer of a dead Tuscan-style 4-storey walkup last months in north Burnaby, is taking the 500 block Cordova site and putting up a condo with maybe 5 low-rental units. There is a hint that they might be 600 sq. feet, 56 sq. metres.
    “Renumbered” 555 East Cordova, it is on the north-side, a hop and a skip from Oppenheimer Park.

    A developer makes a cautious foray into Vancouver’s hardscrabble heart
    by Kerry Gold. Special to The Globe and Mail
    Published Friday, Feb. 01 2013, 11:39 AM EST
    Last updated Friday, Feb. 01 2013, 11:45 AM EST (in print in Saturday’s paper)

    theglobeandmail.com/life/home-and-garden/real-estate/a-developer-makes-a-cautious-foray-into-vancouvers-hardscrabble-heart/article8105966/?cmpid=rss1

    …”Last summer, the Boffos purchased an empty lot at 555 Cordova, a street where prostitutes hang out, down the street from a soup kitchen. It’s on the fringes of Strathcona, and between the growing Hastings Corridor and downtown. It will be central and affordable enough to attract the young urban crowd.
    “We are targeting the cheapest price per square foot in Vancouver, around $385,” says Mr. Boffo. “We’re excited, because it will be a different model, a small, repeatable project that is putting non market and market on the same site.”
    It’s also within the heart of the downtown eastside, known as the Downtown Eastside Oppenheimer district (DEOD), where there’s a dense low-income population, between Hastings to the south, Alexander to the north, and along Cordova to the east. In that particular patch, there is special zoning that has long required new residential housing to include 20 per cent non-market housing. The 20 per cent rule, as well as the fact it’s skid row, has long turned off developers.”
    ….”Mr. Boffo’s comparatively small, 29-unit residence is next. It’s currently in the development permit approvals stage, and in order to build it, Mr. Boffo has partnered with non-profit housing provider, Community Builders Group, who will purchase and manage the five non-market units. Based on square footage, Mr. Boffo was only required to include three units, but trying to be sensitive to the issue, he increased it to five.

  • 37 Michael Geller // Feb 11, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Glad to have Insider Doug on the scene. He may have been around for a while, but I didn’t notice until he showed up on Twitter.

    Keep it up Doug (altho I’m sure that’s not your real name!) I like the tone of your comments and approach!

  • 38 Bill Lee // Mar 12, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    And further to my notion to preserve large halls (sometimes called Churches) from demolition, especially the many along the Fraser Street spine, here is:
    ———
    Flawed policies doom Vancouver’s old buildings

    By Elizabeth Murphy, Vancouver Sun March 11, 2013

    In recent years new development has caused the loss of many arts, culture and community assets including local theatres such as the Ridge (and Bowling Alley), Pantages, Hollywood, Varsity, Granville 7 and Playhouse; music and entertainment venues such as the Starfish Room, Richards on Richards and Maxine’s; community space of St. John’s Church, and the list goes on.

    Although the public generally supports the arts, culture and related amenities, city policies have not been enacted to ensure their retention. Instead, we have a chronic state of crisis management where last-minute attempts are made under threat of demolition, often after the building has been abandoned and degraded – as it was with the Pantages and York Theatres.

    This comes at a high cost of either huge density bonuses or demolition. The solution would be to protect these assets under policy rather than rely on desperate initiatives. While council’s recent approval of mapping existing cultural assets is a step toward addressing the issue, the problem is broader than a few specific sites.

    What these assets have in common is that they are old buildings, some heritage-listed. Current city policies do not recognize the role older buildings play in creating a city that is affordable and vibrant.

    Cities need a variety of ages of buildings, including a large quantity of older buildings in different levels of condition. The mix should include some depreciated “fixer-uppers” that people starting out in a new business or home can rent or purchase at lower rates and improve through adaptive reuse.

    New creative and small-and medium-sized enterprises cannot afford the cost of new construction or extensive renovation. But rigid building codes designed to enable new construction make renovation of older buildings more expensive and often impractical.

    Even if a property is not slated for redevelopment, speculative pressure can inflate the land value, property assessments, and then taxes, which are usually paid by the tenant under commercial leases. Therefore, creative and small enterprises need stable neighbourhoods with surrounding development in scale under existing zoning to protect land values from inflation.

    Jane Jacobs summarized this wisely in The Death and Life of Great American Cities: “Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings. New ideas must use old buildings.”

    Former Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan initially idealized Jane Jacobs until he realized that she didn’t support tower and large-scale developments. Last year, Sullivan was quoted in the Georgia Straight saying he wanted to ” … bury Jane Jacobs under concrete”, an approach dubbed “Sullivanism”.

    Vision Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson has been implementing wholesale “Sullivanism” at record speed, accelerating development pressure at the expense of valuable community assets.

    The Waldorf Hotel complex at 1489 East Hastings Street is a case in point. The Waldorf is an old building, constructed in 1947 with the interior converted to the “Tiki-style” in 1955, as was popular at the time. In 2010 Waldorf Productions leased the premises and brought it back to life through revitalization after years of decline.

    However, in the last few years the area surrounding the Waldorf has become like a war zone. Large development blocks have been assembled with buildings demolished and vacant lots fenced off.

    The Georgia Straight reported that Waldorf Productions had tried to make a deal with Ian Gillespie of Westbank (developer of the Shangri-La, Telus Gardens, Woodward’s, 1401 Comox, etc.) to develop the property with a mixed-residential rezoning including retention of the Waldorf and an option for an operating agreement for Waldorf Productions. This was done without the knowledge of the owner of the property.

    Both Westbank and the city apparently indicated support for the idea. However, the owner chose to sell the property to another developer, Sol-terra. Waldorf Productions vacated the premises after failed attempts to make a deal with the owner or the purchaser.

    Retired Assistant Director of Planning for the City, Trish French, explained in her letter to Council that the existing zoning on that lot is MC-2, which allows only mixed commercial/ industrial use, not residential condo development. Therefore, the Waldorf would likely be retained if left under current zoning.

    But because Mayor Robertson and City Hall did not state clearly that the block would only be considered under current zoning (in fact, the city indicated to developers that residential rezoning would be considered), speculation for rezoning persists, increasing the potential for demolition of the Waldorf.

    The city has approved a 120-day protection order until May 15, 2013 to complete a statement of significance for consideration as a heritage listed property. But even if the building is listed as heritage, it still could potentially be demolished.

    Lacking are city policies that inherently protect older buildings, especially heritage assets, without resorting to reactionary emergency responses.

    Some new options are:

    . Require development/building permits be approved before demolition of any building without exception.

    . Stop giving tax reductions to owners for development sites after buildings are demolished for temporary green space. This practice is an incentive for demolition and off-loads the tax subsidy received by development sites onto other small businesses to be paid in their property taxes. Other arrangements for permanent community gardens should be made.

    . Introduce a rate-of-change policy for arts, cultural, heritage and community amenities (as suggested by Brent Toderian, former Director of Planning), similar to what is in place for rental housing.

    . Change land use policies to support retention of a large stock of old buildings and heritage, while integrating new development incrementally at the scale of the neighbourhood to reduce speculation and to keep land values stable. Identifying special sites is important, but policies need to be broad enough to ensure a large stock of older buildings for current and future creative enterprises.

    . Reinstating third-party appeals to the Board of Variance to help provide checks and balances.

    We need to change current city policy directions and protect older buildings in neighbourhoods to retain their character and encourage affordable, vibrant spaces for creative enterprises, arts, culture, heritage and amenities.

    Elizabeth Murphy is a former property development officer for the City of Vancouver’s Housing & Properties Department, a former senior development officer for BC Housing, and has worked as a project manger in the private sector.

    emurphy@nsvancouver.ca
    Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Flawed+policies+doom+Vancouver+buildings/8078095/story.html#ixzz2NMJNVsKj

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