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West End Neighbours continues its pressure on Vision Vancouver

June 16th, 2010 · 44 Comments

In the last election, Non-Partisan Association organizers were dismayed at their reception in the West End during the campaign. “We gave up phoning because there was no point,” said one.

The renters there hated the NPA for not doing more to protect the neighbourhood’s rental buildings, which felt like they were under attack from owners wanting to “renovate” and charge much higher rents.

If the mini-revolt in the West End keeps going, Vision Vancouver could find itself meeting pockets of similar dislike. The ubiquitous West End Neighbors is organizing another protest/rally outside tonight’s VV fundraiser downtown, along with other activities. (Their news release attached below.)

A small note from me: Although this West End group’s efforts to have more input into development decisions is admirable, I have to sigh in despair at the way they stray into misinformation and hyperbole in an over-enthusiastic or perhaps incompletely researched effort to make their case.

Like actors in some Robert Redford drama about nasty developers, they have in the past made accusations that council is allowing certain developments in return for donations from particular developers. As I’ve pointed out before, this might make sense if councillors were getting direct cash in their pockets. But all contributions just going to pay off their giant election-expense bills. It doesn’t make any sense to imagine that even a $10,000 contribution would make a difference in a $2-million election budget and that the entire council would decide to allow a project just to get that.

They also make a reference, in this news release, to the “$16-million tulip tree” — reference to the six storeys that was proposed as compensation for a developer who would have to build around the 107-year-old tree in order to preserve it. As city planners noted, that estimate — the result of poor math on the part of one local writer — was wildly off. The net profit on six storeys was calculated at $4 million and that money would be used for the extra expense of building around the tree.

Finally, a point that opponents to tower projects in the West End keep making is that developers are getting “subsidies” from council to build rental projects. The implication is that they are making a killing on these rentals. As anyone who has studied rental housing for even 30 minutes in this country knows, developers more or less stopped building rental projects in this country in the 1980s when the federal government changed various pieces of tax law. Ever since, city planners and housing advocates have been struggling to figure out ways to encourage developers to get back into the business.

Vision’s Short Term Incentives for Rental — which the WEN group is so opposed to — is the local attempt to provide a solution. Developers do not get cash subsidies. They get given enough density to provide them with the equivalent level of profit they would make by building a condo project. Ironically, traditional housing advocates, who are not usually developers’ big friends, have supported this effort.

Okay, end of my exasperated rant.

(Vancouver, June 16, 2010) The West End will be busy today with a rally about rezoning and development pressures on the community and then “greeters” outside a “Vision Vancouver” fundraiser at the Coast Plaza Hotel. Media are welcome.    

WEST END RALLY AT MAXINE’S (1215 Bidwell Street) When: 4:45 to 5:15 pm, Wednesday, June 16, 2010 Where: Outside 1215 Bidwell Street, near corner of Davie What: Speakers will present the latest info on rezoning and development in the West End and other neighbourhoods in Vancouver. Information will be presented on the status of “Maxine’s” (historic building rezoned in December for a subsidized 20-storey tower, and threatened soon by the wrecking ball); the “No Rezoning without a Comprehensive Plan!” petition now with over 6300 signatures, findings of a citizen’s opinion survey on the future of Maxine’s, and more. Participants will also hear about concerns in other neighbourhoods of Vancouver about major rezonings and proposed developments, many of them under the City’s controversial Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing (STIR) program.  

VISION VANCOUVER FUNDRAISER AT COAST PLAZA HOTEL (1763 Comox St.) Then, after 5:15 pm the group will walk 2 blocks to the Coast Plaza Hotel to greet Mayor Robertson’s guests for Vision Vancouver’s fundraiser (starts at 6 pm), welcome them to the neighbourhood and let them know taxpayers and voters care about Vision Vancouver’s policies major City decisions affecting everyone.   Anyone visiting the West End today is invited to have a look at current rezoning hotspots at 1401 Comox St. (St. John’s Church), 1754 Pendrell St., 1600 Beach Ave. (Beach Towers), 1245 Harwood St. (with the “$16 million tulip tree”), and 1215 Bidwell St. (Maxine’s). Each involves an actual or potential rezoning application that could result in a new residential tower of 18 to 22 storeys. Many citizens are concerned City’s willingness to make site-by-site rezonings that radically override existing community policy plans and zoning guidelines (on height, density, setback and so on) will significantly change their communities, destroy heritage, reduce liveability, and in some cases (under STIR, which essentially subsidizes developers) involve huge costs for all Vancouver taxpayers who pick up the costs.   West End Neighbours (WEN) is a network of residents that has grown to thousands of citizens concerned about the impact of fast-tracked rezoning on liveability in the West End and the implications for all of Vancouver.

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