Correction: The workshop on the OCP is on Tuesday, May 2, not Monday as we originally reported.
If you find this article interesting, please use the buttons at the end of the article to share it with your neighbours on social media.
The District of North Vancouver’s 2011 Official Community Plan (OCP) is aimed to shape the way our community grows for the next 30 years. It was the result of an intense planning process and six years later has once again become a controversial issue.
The discussion continues in Council Chambers at 5:00 pm on Tuesday May 2. Details of the agenda, with more information than is provided below, are here:
The OCP had originally called for a review after five years. Council had originally thought to delay this; however, in recent months many DNV residents have been raising questions about their quality of life because of traffic and development issues. Recognizing this, Council decided to proceed with a review. Just how public consultation should take place around the review also became an issue.
On November 21, 2016 Council voted to have a “high-level review” of progress made with respect to implementation of the OCP to be conducted in the first quarter of 2017. On January 9th Council voted to carry forward with an Official Community Plan bylaw implementation review based on a report to Council from staff. That report called for the creation of a document providing data on transit and traffic, housing and development, and changes in industrial land. It called for public consultation with members of the former OCP implementation committee and North Vancouver community associations.
In the last two weeks Council held two two-hour workshops on the OCP with lengthy data presentations and in some cases tense exchanges around the Council table. It was agreed at the outset there would be no public input at the April 18 meeting, however, public participation was then cancelled at the April 24 meeting with a promise there would be room for the public at one more Council workshop on the OCP on May 2nd.
Housing and Development
In the OCP the DNV has called for a network of centres where 75% to 90% of growth is expected to take place to 2030. A number of developments have already happened in these areas and the report to Council said surveys had been sent to 1,000 new residences. The survey found 83% of these households had people working full time and that for most driving was still the most common method of transportation. Nearly half do use transit sometimes however more detailed information will not be available until TransLink does its trip diary study in 2018. These units were three times as likely than the District as a whole to have someone living there from the “missing generation” of younger people.
Two Councilors raised issues about the survey. Lisa Muri sought information about people who had been displaced by new developments.
The report to Council showed the DNV was facing change in its single-family home stock. Nearly two thirds of single family homes are 40 to 70 years old and it is believed housing stock gets renewed every 40 to 70 years. In the 2011-16 period 2% of houses underwent construction or renovation every year and this trend is expected to continue. Interior renovations are not tracked.
In discussion Lisa Muri raised the issue of concentrated redevelopment raising issues in some neighbourhoods. She noted 11 properties being redeveloped in a small area near Edgemont Village. She asked about the number of houses sitting empty in the community. Staff responded this data was missing but hoped Census report releases would provide this information.
The report to Council found there were 4,367 secondary suites in 2016, roughly ten per cent of housing units in the DNV. Staff reported that 75% of new homes in the District had a secondary suite. Mayor Walton noted he thought the actual number might be even higher and compared this to the tiny number of laneway homes being permitted.
At the April 24 meeting Councilor MacKay-Dunn raised the issue that while older housing was affordable, what was being done to protect it this stock? He cited the example of an owner who let affordable housing decay and council permitted its replacement.
At the April 24 meeting Mayor Walton said massive rebuilding of community is part of a natural cycle: our community, which was built from nothing in 1950s.
Attached vs detached housing
In 2011 69% of housing in the DNV was made up of detached units. Attached units of all kinds made up 31%. The OCP anticipates that by 2030 the proportion of detached houses will fall to 45%. The DNVs development centres already have significantly higher numbers of attached homes. Attached is anything from a duplex to an apartment. Between 2011 and 2016 there were 980 new units in the District. Of these 748 were in the town centres. Staff told Council in the April 18 meeting that the DNV was behind in its development plans but expected to “accelerate at the back end.” They noted that TransLink was using “dollars to enforce density” by refusing to provide new services unless density targets were met.
Rental, Affordable and Non-Market Units
The April 18 staff report showed that most rental units in the DNV had been developed in earlier decades when there was support from senior levels of government for the projects. The staff reporting to Council said, “we need to, very clearly the data are showing us, that we need to accelerate the rental and affordable housing strategy. And staff are already developing an approach to the non-market housing components that we also acknowledge that we need to address.”
Councilor Bond expressed concerns about the 20 to 30 year gap in rental housing. He said we’re going to need to be very aggressive. Unless community and council are willing to look beyond town centres, were not going to be able to help very many people.
Councilor Hanson said we need the intervention of senior levels of government. He said if we are going to treat housing as a human right rather than a commodity to be traded. Richard Florida (a writer on urban issues) notes the huge influx of people to urban centres was pushing out people who have been there all their lives. We’ve got to get used to that and be flexible.
Both Councilors Bond and Muri raised the issue of how affordable housing would be defined.
Transportation and Transit
In the April 18 meeting staff reported to Council that an analysis by TransLink found that by 2040 half of every trip needs to be made by something other than an owner occupied or shared vehicle. Staff reported on existing and planned transit. Planned transit and traffic improvements, such as a new Seabus and work on highway interchanges have been funded. In terms of vehicle traffic, traffic on the Lions Gate Bridge has remained relatively constant while the Second Narrows Bridge saw a significant jump in traffic following the opening of the new Port Mann Bridge. Mayor Walton described traffic as a regional issue. Councilor Muri noted that commercial truck traffic on the Second Narrows had increased by 14%.
Most of the discussion on industrial lands happened at the April 24 meeting. The staff reported there had been an increase in industrial lands which raised questions from Council on where these were.
The need for more and better data
Throughout the two workshops a number of Councilors asked for more and better data, particularly in the area of housing on such issues as empty homes. In Vancouver, this issue has led to the call for a tax on empty houses held for speculation.
This issue arose particularly around the number of new housing units coming forward. While the number of new built and in process units is relatively small, Councilor Muri at the April 18 meeting said, she had seen numbers that suggested 5,700 units were coming. At the April 24th meeting, she said she wanted to see numbers all the way from preliminary applications to occupancy and complained she was not getting the number of units.
Councilor Bassam said, there were dozens of data points. Councilors will choose data points they want. He said he was worried they were heading into analysis paralysis. Going down rabbit hole. He said it was just more data, data, data and “let’s just get on with it.”
Consultation with the community
On April 24th Councilor Hanson observed the District since 2011 had seen major changes on housing costs and daily traffic congestion. He said “we need to know from my point of view how those changes are felt by members of our community.” He said we need to be careful that rising land prices doesn’t drive out workers and services from the North Shore. He said with these changes we have every reason to do a rethink. He said these must be observed in the context of the perceptions of the community and that these perceptions were important.
Councilor Bond observed that Council discussions had seen an intense focus on the 1,000 to 1,500 people who had recently moved into attached housing units in the community and suggested this concentration might be making people feel unwelcome. He suggested far more people were moving to single family homes in the community and asked why they were not being asked the same questions.
At the April 18 meeting Councilor Muri pressed for a more robust consultation with the community. She felt two two-hour meetings with two groups had been inadequate and called for the terms of reference for the OCP Implementation Committee to come back to Council sooner rather than later. At the April 24th meeting staff said they were still seeking input on the terms of reference and promised they would come back to Council on May 2nd. Muri asked for the two co-chairs of the previous committee to speak to Council. Mayor Walton said he would talk to staff and consider this. Councilor Muri said, I hear what council thinks, I hear what staff thinks, I never get to hear what the community thinks. That’s the problem with this. Mayor Walton pointed out there was no guarantee on any night of public participation in workshops.
You can watch these two nights of debate on the District website here:
and you can see the presentation here:
Follow the Delbrook Community Association by subscribing to this page, or
Following us on Facebook at Delbrook Community Association, North Vancouver, or
Following us on Twitter @delbrookca