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Vancouver city planner sees term ended by Vision council

January 31st, 2012 · 45 Comments

My news of the day, which started circulating among developers and architects last week: city planning director Brent Toderian being told his contract is being terminated.

Council is supposed to vote on it in camera today, but it’s widely known among those close to city hall.

Here’s the profile I did of Brent a few years ago, when he was already dealing with local hostilities in the first three years of his job.

As you can see from it, there are things to like about Brent and, if you were a developer with a project in front of him, potentially things not to like.

He has boundless, unsquelchable enthusiasm for his job and talking about urban design and planning. He held a steady line on resisting any efforts to remove industrial land, on promoting good urban design and more “exuberant” architecture in this somewhat bland city, and on the need for affordable housing and rental stock.

But he also, as Bob Ransford pointed out in that profile three years ago, had a hard time with the necessary political skills needed to keep developers on your side even while getting them to improve their projects or to connect with neighbourhood groups. He was happiest when he was with other urban-planner wonks and architects (or reporters), talking about urban-design ideas.

There has been some mixed reaction among the people I called. A lot have been cracking open the champagne all weekend, as one architect told me. And, unlike what some people might think, it wasn’t because Toderian didn’t approve their projects (though that’s certainly the motivation for a few).

But, said my Architect Friend, Toderian was a concern because he focused so much on policy and left the job of actually steering big projects — those physical objects that are the embodiment of policy — through the system. He, and others, worried about his ability to set out and stick to a big vision for the city.

And like many, he contrasted him with former planner Larry Beasley, who is not without his own flaws, but who set out clear rules for developers. He demanded that they give a lot back to the city, but he also would make it very clear-cut how they could get their projects approved.

On the other hand, another person in the development community said he’s saddened by Toderian’s termination and in the way others are cheering it. He says some of them were people who just resented being asked to make changes to bad projects and he didn’t like the way they piled on in criticizing Toderian. He saw Toderian growing into his job and keeping a clear focus on the city’s essential priorities.

One of the interesting facets of this story for me is that I don’t have a very clear picture of how Toderian was viewed by neighbourhood groups. All of the debate around him has come from the tight circle that works at city hall. I’d be interested to hear your experiences of him out in the real world, far far from mine.

One note before comments and anecdotes begin: Criticisms are fine, but please keep this respectful when you phrase them. This is a real person’s life.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

45 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Fred // Jan 31, 2012 at 7:04 am

    He simply wasn’t greenie enough for the current eco-mob running city hall.

    If you are not a True Believer in all things Suzuki, Greenie & Climate Change (nee Global Warming) you are treated like foot fungus by the Visionistas.

    Sad but true.

  • 2 Roger Kemble // Jan 31, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Fred @ #1

    http://times247.com/articles/global-warming-trend-ended-in-1997-new-data-shows

    . . . Yeah someone at Thu Hall needs a wakie wakie. that guy from Chicago need get on his bike and peddle home: he’s out lived his usefulness

  • 3 Roger Kemble // Jan 31, 2012 at 7:37 am

    PS Oh we need air quality control . . .

    http://www.calidadaire.df.gob.mx/calidadaire/index.php

    . . . but not the “pay to pollute” scam the Gore-istas are trying to lay on us!

  • 4 Norman // Jan 31, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I have been wondering for some time what happened to planning in Vancouver. The developers seem to have realized that they can “block bust” and the former city plan is no more. If we need a change at the top to bring things back in line, so be it.

  • 5 Lewis N. Villegas // Jan 31, 2012 at 8:29 am

    Brent will do well with his next stage in his career. His position in Vancouver has given him lots of exposure, some of it of the kind you are happy to take a long vacation from.

    I have said here before, the DoP and the person who is the DoP, are things to be kept separate. I don’t pretend to understand the job, or the machinations of any city hall. I don’t think that’s possible without being on the inside.

    We are forever watching the shadows on the wall in Plato’s cave.

    But, here is what we are losing when Brent goes—whenever that is. His background in Ontario, and his tenure in Calgary, gave him first hand experience of the urban house as a development product.

    If it is curtains, we will be left with the search for the next DoP. Yet, I don’t think that is what is really missing today. We have a good one. The view from the neighbourhoods is that what we are looking for is transparency, participation and urban design injected into the neighbourhood process.

    It’s not Brent that put the Rise tower at the end of a 2-year Mt. Pleasant Plan. And it was not Brent that was responsible for drafting that flawed vision of massing density along the arterials where the soot and the noise will guarantee buildings turn a back on the street.

    We need to change planning paradigm, and that’s not a DoP responsibility.

  • 6 jesse // Jan 31, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Tough job; I wonder if it’s the environment that’s the problem.

    As it were.

  • 7 Caroline Neufeld // Jan 31, 2012 at 10:21 am

    I think he was lacking in relationship-building skills.

  • 8 Jo-Anne Pringle // Jan 31, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I thinks it’s difficult for community people to provide a fair assessment of any staffer at City Hall. From my experience, generally the developers are on one side of the fence, the community on the other – both trying to achieve vastly different things, and staffers are somewhere in the middle, leaning back and forth trying to satisfy city wide goals, listen to communities – and follow Council direction (to which they are bound). I along with others have done a fair bit of community work here in Marpole. We worked quite closely with Brent Toderian and many of his planning staff. I disagreed with Brent on many an occassion, which stands to reason, as our focus was more singular – we were speaking up for the best interests of our neighbourhood. But I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Brent was always approachable and gracious to our group. He always took our meetings and answered our e-mails, not with just a courteous acknowledgement, but with back and forth discussion. It’s a hot climate between community groups and City Hall, and yes Brent is pro-density, but so is the current party dominant at City Hall – so I would suspect that the next Director of Planning won’t have any greater success in delivering to community groups what they are advocating for.

    I wish Brent well.

  • 9 Bill Lee // Jan 31, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Now starts The Sack of Rome, with the Vandals inside the gates!?

  • 10 gmgw // Jan 31, 2012 at 11:24 am

    I heard the news on the radio. Quite startling. My immediate, snarky comment to my companion was “He probably wasn’t sufficiently deferential to the developers to suit them, so they got him fired”. Then I turned to the BulaBlog, only to find out I was at least partially right.

    Sigh. Cynicism is redundant in this city.
    gmgw

  • 11 ThinkOutsideABox // Jan 31, 2012 at 11:33 am

    One of the interesting facets of this story for me is that I don’t have a very clear picture of how Toderian was viewed by neighbourhood groups.

    Could I suggest not mischaracterizing them as “anti-development” groups would be one way to start towards clarity? 1) it belies the essence of the concerns and why these neighbourhood groups give up a part of their lives to their effort, and 2) it undermines writer credibility with readers and story subjects, coming across as churning cheap controversy from “afar”.

    The impression out in the neighbourhood is that Brent was trying to hold a position between developers, neighbourhood concerns and serving council. Quite often in the last term, a councillor would pose a question to Brent asking about certain decisions, to which his answer would be to defer back to council to clarify that it was either council’s directive or choice to make. Since as a public employee doing council’s bidding, there was little point in targeting criticism at him.

  • 12 Glissando Remmy // Jan 31, 2012 at 11:33 am

    The Thought of The Day

    “Dunno’ why, the Ten Little Indians poem comes to mind… again.”

    I was so ‘young and naive’. Little did I know… :-) not!”
    Completely forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me, you funny Vision guys. Looking back now, Reality beat Fiction out of sight!

    Here’s my interpretation of the New Order at the City Hell… after only few months in (March 2009)!!!
    (On Francesbula – ‘City’s general manager of Olympics preparations “retires”)

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    glissando remmy // Mar 13, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    The original piece, then called “10 Little Injuns”, was written by songwriter Septimus Winner in 1868 for a minstrel show and was much more elaborate.
    “Ten Little Indians” is a modern children’s rhyme (sometimes “soldier boys” or “teddy bears” is used instead of Indians to avoid offense). The song, supra, is usually performed to the Irish folk tune “Michael Finnegan”.

    The rhyme was notable for being the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”.

    The disturbing events of the past months made City Hall insiders to cry in amazement and obliged me to revisit this beautifully crafted poem.
    I felt a civic obligation to bring it back to life in a new adapted form in sync with the dry suffocating wind that blows mercilessly from the City of Vancouver’s third floor.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,
    Please allow me the honour to introduce to you in premiere the new Vancouver adaptation
    “Ten Little Managers”.

    Note:
    (To be framed and hanged in a noticeable place in every Senior Manager’s office for future reference and as reminder of the times we live in)

    Ten Little Managers

    Ten Little Managers going out to dine
    Estelle choked her little self and then there were
    Nine

    Nine Little Managers sat up very late
    Judy overslept herself and then there were
    Eight

    Eight Little Managers travelling to Devon;
    Jody got left behind and then there were
    Seven

    Seven Little Managers chopping up sticks
    Dave chopped himself in half and then there were
    Six

    Six Little Managers playing with a hive
    A bumblebee stung (Your name in here) and then there were
    Five

    Five Little managers going in for law
    Ark, got into chancery and then there were
    Four

    Four Little Managers going out to sea
    A red herring swallowed Tom and then there were
    Three

    Three Little Managers walking in the Zoo
    A big bear hugged Brent and then there were
    Two

    Two Little Managers playing with a Taser gun
    (Your name here) shot the other and then there was
    One

    One Little Manager looked at herself in the mirror
    Then, Penny apologetically yelled wheezy…

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy!

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    Of course I added Ark, Tom and Brent, for good measure.

    "Today, it’s baggy shorts, a plaid shirt, sandals, and aviator-style sunglasses that protect his eyes."
    YES it is. Perhaps for the summer too!

    "The local joke was that developers had a bounty on his head. “There were lots of people who tried to get me fired.”"
    THEY sure followed through!

    "Good planning is not a popularity contest.
    Being liked is not my priority"…
    WELL, for once, you got that right!

    Now that he's gone, I have to say, I kinda liked the guy, sailing by himself inside a paper boat, on a turbulent, wavy, Vision Administration sea of shit. Hard not to get paper cuts and BS penetrations of some sorts.
    I don't worry about him though, he'll quietly take his severance package, sign his non-disclosure agreement aka Ballem gag order, and retire quietly.

    What worries me is… his replacement!
    But, I hope he/she comes from a good Hollyhock family, with a kosher background, preferably "American", because, you know, the same people who hired Ballem and Aufochs… cannot do worse.
    I also worry that leaving $100+ million projects in the hands of a Vision Council and Mayor, hey, any Council and Mayor, would be idiotic.
    You cannot put competency in incompetents.

    Brent Toderian, City Planner 2006 -2012 (barely) RIP… bench-presses Boeings, inside the City of Vancouver no more.

    For our next civic chapter though… what I would like to know, is this:

    Who are you, Penny Ballem? We still don't know you (joke), who are you?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dranqFntNgo

    Nobody in West End, Stratchona or DTES know of you (joke), and I want to know, who voted for you (joke), what your credentials are (joke), we never heard of you (joke), we don't know you (joke), and most definitely, we don't want you (not a joke)… eh?

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • 13 Frank Ducote // Jan 31, 2012 at 11:54 am

    This is indeed shocking but not surprising, if you can follow the distinction. I agree with Jo-Ann’s assessment of Brent above, so will not repeat it.

    Looking back to look forward, it seems the city was very well served by the two co- director model that operated under Larry Beasley for the Central Area and Ann McAfee for the remainder – and majority – of the city. Perhaps it is time to think about this approach again, since it is pretty clear that one person, no matter how bright, dedicated and professional (as Brent was and is) cannot handle all the pressures for such a complex set of sets of demands for the multi-headed organism that is
    Vancouver.

    I hope Council is much clearer about the job description for the next holder of this mid-level but all important city-building position, or two.

  • 14 Tiktaalik // Jan 31, 2012 at 11:59 am

    I appreciated his effort to safeguard existing industrial space and he seemed to be a strong proponent of laneway housing, which I also agree with.

    RE: Lewis @5 Was Toderian not responsible for Rize? I’ll admit I do not know the details of how the planning department is organized, however one of the disturbing things at the recent community open house showing off the slightly revised rezone application was the city planners unabashedly taking the developer side in doing a presentation to remind Mt Pleasant folks that their community plan included allowance for “larger” buildings at certain sites. Never mind the fact that suggesting a 26 or even 19 story building is a offensively gross corruption of the “larger” building idea, given that the community planning meeting consensus was more around something of the Olympic Village scale of 10-13 perhaps topping at 15. He is the head of the department, is he not responsible for the fact that the Mt Pleasant Community Plan is a sham?

  • 15 Bill Lee // Jan 31, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Interesting is the Vancouver Sun’s Jeff (Civic) Lee’s blog on the story today…. http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2012/01/31/brent-toderian-fired-as-vancouvers-director-of-planning/
    and what Jeff Lee was planning to write before the scoop in the Globe, and here in the salon of Madame Bula.

  • 16 Frank Ducote // Jan 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I want to add to my comments above by wishing Brent well in his future endeavours and also offer my congratulations for leaving a situation that had to be untenable, from a top-down point of view. There seems to be very little emanating from Vancouver City Hall these days that makes it sound like a good place to work without undue interference, second-guessing and micromanagement from above, whether it be from the City Manager or Council.

    It should be noted that not only many senior staff have left in recent years but also a great crop of younger staff as well. I’m sorry to say and I hope it isn’t true, but it certainly appears that yesmen and women are what is wanted there now.

    As a citizen of this city I want the very best and brightest people to be attracted and retained here, and not chased away.

    May be this is too much to hope for in the current environment.

  • 17 Edgar // Jan 31, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    Rather ironic he is let go on the eve of First Cities Summit.

  • 18 Frank Ducote // Jan 31, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Edgar@17 – thinking the same thing.

  • 19 Joseph Jones // Jan 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Norquay planning (2006-2010, still trickling onward) was supposed to epitomize Vancouver’s non-urban-core future — the second of 19 projected “neighbourhood centres” to put flesh on the multimillion-dollar bones of CityPlan.

    CityPlan fast went off the rails as EcoDensity™ dragged it through a tunnel of multiple, opaque agendas. Norquay community input has experienced continued disrespect and manipulation and stonewalling.

    Political interference (NPA and Vision both) has clearly impacted Norquay “planning.” This all goes back at least to a notorious June 2007 planning document asserting implementation of EcoDensity™ many months ahead of required (but sham) public process and public hearing.

    The recent draft terms of reference for Mount Pleasant contain this amazing sentence: “The City of Vancouver does not have a clear and consistent approach to issues of neighbourhood governance with respect to policy development/implementation.” That took me right back to 2009, when the then lead planner told Norquay Working Group: “We’re making this up as we go along.”

    Mount Pleasant is being told that they will work with planners to determine public benefits and infrastructure strategy and public realm plan. Norquay Working Group, unilaterally dissolved by city planners on 3 February 2011, was told at that time of upcoming opportunity to work on these same two facets — and then abruptly told “no participation”! We wander in darkness toward the next planner revelation of what we have nothing to say about.

    Adhockery colored green and labeled “affordable” garbs a rush to build everything everywhere as fast as possible to cash in on the tsunami of Vancouver’s current sellability. Council continues to refuse to deal in data and to account for Vancouver’s existing zoned capacity.

    In all of this, Brent Toderian seemed more epiphenomenon than not, a chameleon victim. One recent instance of his micromanagement may prove reversible, and that would be a blessing. His hearing was far worse than his eyesight. Personally I resonated with his high level of status inconsistency.

    I valued his strong defense of industrial land as essential to Vancouver’s long-term economic base. I feel less than sanguine about a Vancouver now handed over to the diktat of politicos who seem fixated on little more than the next main chance.

  • 20 Higgins // Jan 31, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    Robertson, Ballem, Chu trashed the city in 2011 during the Robertson’s Riots, through their complete inability to manage a city, costing the city millions of dollars… the only one fired … Brent Toderian.
    I could only puke inside my mouth a little.
    Maybe Toderian shouild have taken seriously that invitation for relaxation at Hollyhock!
    Glissy #12,
    “Ten Little Managers” is a “must have” poem,around the City Hall water-coolers these days, ha, ha!
    All Managers pay attention, you could be next!

  • 21 Chris B // Jan 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    @Higgins – can we give at least a little blame to the actual rioters?

  • 22 Lance Berelowitz // Jan 31, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    I too, like others, was shocked but not totally surprised to hear the news about Brent Toderian being fired by City Council.

    While I can understand why some people were less than happy with his performance and leadership, I found Brent to be unfailingly engaging, thoughtful and respectful of other’s views, and his intelligence, energy and enthusiasm for the job were very evident. He should not be blamed for his young age, which may account for some of the political skills that some claim he lacked: hired in his late 30s as the youngest Director of Planning ever, he was dropped into a job was going to be daunting no matter how mature the incumbent. And I understand that he may not have had the same political skills as his predecessor, who’s shoes were always going to be very big to fill.

    I want to add my best wishes to Brent for the future, and my thanks to him for having done a pretty tough job under what I believe must have been increasingly untenable conditions at City Hall. As others have noted above, City Hall has undergone a sea change in recent years, and not for the better, by most accounts. So many experienced people have left, and the Vision caucus has imposed a pretty tight straightjacket on the organization, beginning from the City Manager’s office on down. Those of us on the outside can only try imagine the conflicting pressures that the Director of Planning must have been under.

    That Brent maintained his cool demeanour and apparent enthusiasm for the job throughout his tenure speaks to his professionalism.

    Whoever is Brent’s replacement has a tough time ahead. My (naive?) hope is that the position is not overtly politicized by Council: in order to be effective the Director has to be able not only to stand up to outside pressure (from developers and community advocates alike) but also, sometimes, to speak truth to power.

  • 23 Lewis N. Villegas // Jan 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    one of the disturbing things at the recent community open house showing off the slightly revised rezone application was the city planners unabashedly taking the developer side in doing a presentation to remind Mt Pleasant folks that their community plan included allowance for “larger” buildings at certain sites. Never mind the fact that suggesting a 26 or even 19 story building is a offensively gross corruption of the “larger” building idea, given that the community planning meeting consensus was more around something of the Olympic Village scale of 10-13 perhaps topping at 15. He is the head of the department, is he not responsible for the fact that the Mt Pleasant Community Plan is a sham?

    Tiktaalik 14

    Oh, maybe you’re right, Tk. Look, even if the DoP wasn’t responsible for the rise, I think it is perfectly in line with the thinking at Cambie, where I expect he was.

    But, the neighbourhood plans that have been hatched in the last few years, including HAHR, are things that we can show to be “a sham” in your words, really bad urbanism in mine.

    My former prof and good friend Trevor Boddy was on the CBC this afternoon suggesting that Vancouver needs to re-invent itself, and in so doing address the issue of economic development.

    I don’t think Trev intended the pun, as in development that is “economic”.

    However, that’s really the point. When we have community plans that focus all the development ‘heat’ on a few parcels (Rise, Safeway in Marpole, Gateway, Arbutus Village, etc.), rather than spread the impact more widely by putting the tower on its side, the we have missed opportunities in neighbourhood revitalization, and economic development.

  • 24 Sandy Garossino // Jan 31, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Brent Toderian’s legacy for me will always be viewed from the perspective of the casino fight. From this vantage point, his service to the community was sorely lacking.

    First there is the unsolved mystery as to how a casino use was slid into the ODP of Northeast False Creek in late 2008 without notice to Council or the public, and approved without a word of debate. The sitting council had no idea that casino use had been added.

    To this day no one knows how and by whose hand that word was included in the ODP.

    In a similarly sleepy way, the planning department permitted PavCo and the province to spring their dazzling new mega-casino on an unsuspecting public as a complete surprise in March 2010, and frame it as the announcement of a done deal.

    There was no recognition of the long and tortuous history the Vancouver public has with major casino proposals. Rather, Toderian took the tack that one council cannot bind a future one. While that is surely the law, good faith would dictate that extensive expense in research and public efforts should at least be respected.

    Meanwhile, everything was done with the barest minimum of notice to the public–almost to the point of keeping it a secret from us. The planning department’s summary of the sparsely attended “public information sessions” disclosed not a single note of objection by anyone to the plan.

    Maybe because no one knew about it?

    The planning department also permitted the casino proponents to trumpet grossly misleading economic projections to the public and to Council. The department knew these figures were deeply flawed because it was in possession of sharply divergent conclusions in a study by independent and respected experts in casino projects.

    It was only after you, Frances, obtained and released that independent HLT study (which Vancouver Not Vegas had been seeking for months) that city staff were forced to advise Council that they were unable to make reliable revenue projections for the project.

    It’s also unconscionable that the city planning director approved this proposal without first obtaining the input of Vancouver’s addictions experts or the Vancouver Public Health Officers, or obtaining any estimate of the social and economic costs associated with the project.

    The spectacle of Vancouver’s Public Health Officer taking a number and waiting in line for his five minutes to talk at the public hearing is all anyone needs to know about the director of planning’s commitment to fully informing the public and seeking their views about projects of historic import to the character of Vancouver.

    My final note of curiosity is whether Mr. Toderian will turn up on the payroll of anyone in our local development community. As seems to be the pattern in Vancouver.

    One person’s opinion, fwiw…

  • 25 Andrew // Jan 31, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    @ #22 (Lewis N. Villegas)

    Yes, Boddy was speaking, but was he saying anything? I was listening and had been hoping for something more from him.

    I mean… come on.
    – re-invent; and,
    – economic development.

    Real nuggets, those.

    Boddy kind of rambled his way into a corner and half-suggested not having a DoP, or something? The thing that strikes me as funny is that Boddy’s love of architecture and luxury urbanism doesn’t tend to fare too well in a primarily “economic development” focused process.

    Don’t get me wrong, though. Radio is tough and I would have rambled myself into 10 times as many corners (or more) as Trevor. He’s a nice guy, usually good commentary, but not this time.

  • 26 gasp // Feb 1, 2012 at 1:03 am

    Sandy, I understand the concerns that you raised. However I’m not sure I’d put all the blame on the Planning department or Toderian.

    From what I’ve observed the Planning department acts according to Council’s backroom orders. They learn to tailor their positions based on what Council wants the result to be. They don’t provide options; they just make recommendations.

    Then Council holds a public hearing intending to rubber stamp the Planning department’s “recommendations” (since they decided and dictated beforehand what these should be). If things go sideways the staff take the heat and the politicians can just feign ignorance and say they were just following staffs’ recommendations.

    The real problem is that Council doesn’t want to take responsibility for their decisions, so they force staff to make the case for them.

  • 27 Silly Season // Feb 1, 2012 at 9:44 am

    @gasp.#25 I agree.

    The last council wanted the casino because they wanted the revenue. Once the backlash started, they suddenly sang a different tune.

  • 28 Silly Season // Feb 1, 2012 at 9:54 am

    PS This is the way it is done in government.

    Exempt staff (not union, who have protection) and especially those who are managers have to carry the spear that their masters tell them to carry. Then, if people push back, the pols get to download on the staff member and feign indignation, rage or whatevuh for the cameras.

    Make no mistake–there is no staff member who has the power or ability to push their own agenda off against those of the City Manager and the majority sitting on council. That’s why we see these managerial blood-lettings—the powers that be like to be surrounded by totally like-minded staff, who won’t make life too hard. Some call it team work, I guess.

    Now, I’m not saying that Toderian was the most adept with the public debate, but cearly, council itself was not showing any overt enthusiasm for democracy in action (public engagement) on any number of files that they faced last year.

  • 29 MB // Feb 1, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    @ gasp #25: “From what I’ve observed the Planning department acts according to Council’s backroom orders. They learn to tailor their positions based on what Council wants the result to be. They don’t provide options; they just make recommendations.”

    I think you are grossly underestimating the research staff does and their ability to put detail to the generalities a council pushes as its electoral mandate. Often councillors and senior management rely on the information, options and conclusions staff has uncovered through investigation, internal discussion, and consultation.

    If it were as simplistic as you imply, cities could save a substantial amount of its payroll by hiring only typists and clerks to take dictatation and file reports. But then it may lose more when the inevitable bevy of lawyers rip into such a system.

  • 30 ThinkOutsideABox // Feb 2, 2012 at 2:16 am

    Often councillors and senior management rely on the information, options and conclusions staff has uncovered through investigation, internal discussion, and consultation.

    Notwithstanding the planning department’s occasional gross oversight in protecting the public interest.

    It used to be the comment feedback form provided by the planning department at a rezoning open house would ask whether the attendee opposed or was in favour of the proposal so that the planning department could provide a tally of how many for and against to include in their report. Now it just asks for comments. Again, not blaming the department who serve council’s wishes despite their duty to the public interest. There are other examples.

  • 31 boohoo // Feb 2, 2012 at 8:56 am

    ‘For or against’ is a bit too simple though don’t you think? The problem with that is you can be in favour of most of a project but have serious reservations about one particular aspect but when asked if you favour it you might say no. But that’s not really accurate.

  • 32 ThinkOutsideABox // Feb 2, 2012 at 9:31 am

    boohoo, is ‘For or against’ too simple for things like the decision on the HST? Comments were already welcome on the feedback sheets before. But now if a councillor or the public wants to gauge general acceptance, who is going to make that interpretation of potentially hundreds of comments? Or can they just assume everyone is in favour with provisions?

  • 33 boohoo // Feb 2, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I never said it was easy, but a simple ‘yes/no’ isn’t ever really accurate. I like some aspects of the Little Mountain proposal, I dislike others. I am for or against?

    As for the HST, not sure what you’re saying?

  • 34 Michael Geller // Feb 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I wish I had the time to address many of the comments above, but don’t. However, here are some of my musings on Brent’s departure http://www.gellersworldtravel.blogspot.com/2012/02/brent-toderian-director-of-planning.html

    I was told by a member of the planning department that Brent was allowed the opportunity to say good-bye to his staff and he received a 5 minute standing ovation.

  • 35 ThinkOutsideABox // Feb 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Boohoo, the planning department provides a report with a yes or no recommendation to a rezoning. The Urban Design Panel also has the opportunity to vote yes, no, or a conditional yes to the rezoning proposal. The development permit board also gets to vote, and the council ultimately also has an up or down vote. It’s a certain quantifiable observance whether or not you think it captures these individuals nuanced sentiment accurately. The public shouldn’t be denied the same democratic opportunity in having their approval, conditional approval or dissent accounted for.

  • 36 boohoo // Feb 2, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    What? Who is talking about taking away democratic opportunities here?

    I understand in the end you need to say yes or no, but if I tick a box on a form that hardly captures the ‘nuances’ of my opinion. Like I said, the problem with yes or no is that that can lead to ignoring the comments because all that matters is yes or no. If your comments is ‘yes but blah blah blah’, well who cares what your blah blah blah is, you said yes. Another yes for the planning report.

  • 37 ThinkOutsideABox // Feb 2, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Yes but blah, blah, blah matters greatly. Or else the UDP wouldn’t be doing it, would they?

  • 38 boohoo // Feb 2, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Of course it matters!!! That’s my point! But when you put ‘yes or no’ on a form the danger is it doesn’t matter because all you’re doing is tallying up the yesses and nos.

  • 39 ThinkOutsideABox // Feb 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I don’t think you read my post correctly. I wasn’t agreeing with you. I was suggesting a conditional approval is a legitimate position since the UDP does it all the time. And no, neither the planning department or the project proponent ignores the comments just because the public indicated they were or weren’t in favour.

  • 40 boohoo // Feb 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    The UDP is different than the public.

    But I guess that’s a nice thought, I’ve certainly seen it though.

  • 41 Frank Ducote // Feb 2, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Back to the thread about Toderian being fired, it sounds like from Michael @34 that the morale in the planning department must be at an all-time high. (Not!) What a great environment for the new person to walk into.

  • 42 Lewis N. Villegas // Feb 3, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Frank 41 & Michael 34

    “There is something rotten in Denmark” about the way Brent was let go. We all understand that these are highly political positions. More the reason to handle it better.

  • 43 ThinkOutsideABox // Feb 3, 2012 at 3:13 am

    On who’s management style he rubbed up against, no comment from Toderian, but this: “it takes two to Tango” at City Hall.

    Ha! I’m liking this guy more and more since he lost his job!

    Fired Vancouver Planning Director Knew One Week Before News Broke

    http://www.vancourier.com/Fired+Vancouver+planning+director+knew+week+before+news+broke/6092366/story.html#ixzz1lJeDwG00

  • 44 Glissando Remmy // Feb 5, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Thought of The Day

    “It’s all about… luck!” :-)

    100% of the development applications in Vancouver are in reality an exercise in futility; usually the end result has nothing to do with the idea that started it all. It’s more like luck, and by luck I mean… you sent the right sized cheque to Vision & Mayor.

    Let me explain.

    Architects, Engineers, Planners, Developers prepare sound preliminary or complete development applications.
    After months of back an forth with Planning & Development city staff, the PDA/ CDA reaches the UDP (UrbanDesignPanel).

    Engineers, Architects, Planners, Developers, Local Artist on the UDP, are voting Yay or Nay on many things (form of development, architectural expression, density, height, use, heritage density transfers, materials, LEED design features, view corridors, etc…)
    Public input is welcomed.
    A Yay vote sends the DA to the DPB (Development Permit Board). A Nay vote sends the Applicant back to the drawing board.

    Once at DPB, another plethora of advisers (general public, design profession, UDP, development ind., heritage rep…) are giving advice to the a Three members board… and here’s the thing, only the three member’s votes count!
    Which IMHO is the first flaw in the process.
    Thinking now, that the oldest member… Brent got fired, the Board is left with a newbee and a nobody, both of which could play ping-pong with each other, but never could finish a game.
    The fact that a DP Application may pass with a vote of 2 to 1 is stupid, and totally wrong on so many levels.
    Public input is welcomed.
    All that good, solid professional & public advice could prove to be good for nothing in the end, as the Aufochs aka Ballem of the day could vote whichever way their ego is pointing.
    And in all fairness Toderian was doing his own ballet steps in there as well.
    Yay or Nay.
    If it’s a Yay, the CDA goes to Council. Where it dies, or survives with trauma, or it goes through a sex change operation.
    If it’s a Nay… well, in the past decade I do notr a single Nay in there, but I may be wrong.

    And here’s the kicker.
    After months of work, city staff involvement, panels of professionals, higher echelon cronies showing off their cufflinks… the application is viewed by Cllors. Deal, Reimer, Louie, Jang… all solid urban thinkers, champion in-camera tweeters, advocates for green paper slippers inside the Chambers… oh, and last but not least, the person in charge of the microphones… The Gregor!
    Terrifying, I am telling you!
    Public input is welcomed… Ho, Hey!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IDcmUQa0WM

    So Ladies and Gents, it comes to this:
    If Cllor. Meggs is low on sugar, you are screwed.
    If Cllor. Reimer is having a bad hair day, you are screwed.
    If Mayor Gregor can’t find his spectacles, you’re screwed.
    If Cllor Deal misses her brunch, you-are-screwed.
    So you see, it goes all back to… luck.

    A city, who’s major decisions are made by a group of misfits, needs to be call itself the Parody City.

    Lewis N Villegas #42
    “We all understand that these are highly political positions.”
    There it is! Right there! Do you see it?

    No, Lewis, we do not understand, me for sure, these shall/should/must NOT BE POLITICAL POSITIONS.
    City’s administration should be under no influence from the politicos, what-so-ever!
    But now that Vision Vancouver caravan came to town, it’s becoming obvious that you may have something there after all.

    Useless to say that it feels like when the Second Mate on the HMS Titanic, shouted from the bottom of his lungs: “Ice-Berg ahead!”
    Who was there to listen, or understand the message, when Captain Edward J. Smith, was having a nice dinner with his crew of first, second and third grade mates?
    No one!

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • 45 Glissando Remmy // Feb 5, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    Oops… spelling & misc. :-0
    “If it’s a Nay… well, in the past decade I do not RECALL a single Nay in there, but I may be wrong.”

    “A city, who’s major decisions are made by a group of misfits, needs TO CALL itself the Parody City.”

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