Category Archives: Development

Debate over park space continues in Vancouver

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The Vancouver Sun has carried another article on whether housing should be allowed to encroach on public lands and park space in the city.

Among the comments in the article is the following:

Vancouver’s parks and recreation system cannot solve the housing crisis. Opening up these large historic sites to housing will mean the public open spaces and amenities that make the city livable will be encroached upon just when increased density throughout the city puts more demand on their use. Many neighbourhoods are already underserved for parks and amenities. This would make it worse.

The article is also critical of the city’s relationship with its community associations.

How much does this article relate to what is happening in the District of North Vancouver?

The full article may be found here:

Opinion: Parks and recreation system under threat

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Vancouver asks, should we abandon park space for housing? How about the DNV?

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For those of us who live in the District of North Vancouver, and particularly in the Delbrook area, these thoughts about Vancouver sound familiar:

Vancouver is designed to have neighbourhoods with parks, community centres and schools on large historic sites that make communities walkable and sustainable. These amenities and open green spaces will become even more critical as the city densifies over time, as they are the heart and lungs of the city.

However, rather than being protected, they are increasingly under threat of being sold or redeveloped for housing. Astonishingly, we are moving in this direction now.

Those thoughts come from a September 8th article in the Vancouver Sun by Elizabeth Murphy, a private-sector project manager and was formerly a property development officer for the City of Vancouver’s Housing and Properties Department and for B.C. Housing.

The whole article can be found here:

Opinion: Are amenity spaces destined to become housing development sites?

This question arises in the DNV where the District is committed to building housing the the former Delbrook Recreation Commission site. While housing was supported by the commuity, the idea that got the most support was park space. On the subject we have not heard a word from the District.

The article also calls for more involvement by community associations, another idea we might wan to examine.

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Is an 88 unit five story building a good fit for residents or the Delbrook Lands?

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The Globe and Mail carried an interesting article August 20th on housing density that should be of interest to the District of North Vancouver in their thinking about what to do with the Delbrook Lands.

Current plans call for one story of of services to seniors and children with up to 88 units of housing on four stories above. The average size of the units will be just above 500 feet.

The article noted that in Vancouver, apartment buildings with more than four stories made up only 16.7% of the total.

The article continued:

Andy Yan, an urban planner and director of Simon Fraser University’s City Program, said this type of density – more than, say, 40-storey towers – helps foster a good balance of scale, neighbourliness and connection.

“I think it’s the connection to the ground, and how the building is related to the streets, that really gives people a sense of place,” Mr. Yan said.

“A building is only as good as its interface to its urban context.”

The District is not talking about a 40 story building, but the proposed five story building will still be the tallest building in Norwood Queens, Delbrook, Edgemont Village and Upper Delbrook. It will also be taller that almost all the buildings on Marine Drive and with 88 units it will also be high density.

The whole article can be found here:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/developing-densified-vancouver-into-a-designer-metropolis/article36039290/

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New developments on Delbrook Lands, affordable housing and development in the DNV

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There are lots of new developments in the past 24 hours that affect the pace of growth in the District of North Vancouver, provincial funding for affordable housing and what is going to happen to the Delbrook Lands.

Starting from the last point, at the end of last night’s Council meeting (November 21) it was announced that on December 12th Council will hold a workshop on what will happen with the lands and how it will affect the Delbrook community.

On the affordable housing issue, today the provincial government announced just where they will be funding affordable housing projects. Some people have suggested that this provincial funding could be used to develop affordable housing on the Delbrook Lands, however, none of the communities on the North Shore were chosen for any of the 2,900 housing units provided at a cost of $516 million.

In fact, Metro Vancouver with half the population of the province and with the province’s most critical housing affordability issues will get less than 45 per cent of the new units. Burnaby gets 202 units, Richmond 160, Surrey 326 and Vancouver will receive 611 units.

The province’s press release can be found here:

https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2016PREM0145-002468

Last night Councilor Lisa Muri opened an important discussion at DNV Council on that rate of change faced by residents of the DNV. She presented a four-page report to Council on issues faced by the community and moved a motion calling for a “high level review” of the Official Community Plan which was passed just before the 2011 local elections.

She raised the issues of traffic, affordable housing, the loss of industrial/employment land and changes in communities and suggested that letters being received by Council were reflective of a community at odds with its local government. While not included in her motion she said that, “Council needs to understand we need to have a pause in accepting any additional applications in order to address the issue that may arise during this high level planning review exercise”

All members of Council except Roger Bassam supported the high level review. Bassam said he felt there had not been enough progress on the OCP since 2011 to justify such a review.

Despite not being included in the motion much of the debate centered on whether there should be a pause in approval of new development applications. Councilor Bond said that only 1,300 of the 3,000 new housing units anticipated in the OCP had been built. Councilor Muri responded with a list of more than 2,500 approvals Council had already agreed to which were waiting to begin.

Councilors acknowledged ongoing stress in the community from the pace of development. Councilor Hansen said the residents saw a link among issues like transportation, housing affordability and deletion of industrial/employment lands. He suggested Council needed to fix its attention on where we are now.

Other Councilors suggested the greater need was to look at long term issues. Councilor Hicks said that there was no frenzy of development and that “I think the people who are living here now have to accept the fact that were going to have a lot more people coming here, a lot more challenges of affordability.”

Mayor Walton said “I am a resident of Edgemont and have taken the brunt of traffic diversions. Edgemont is an absolute mess. It’s a construction zone. It will be finished in two years and we have to suck it up and get through it.”

Council agreed further discussions were necessary and have slated a workshop for November 29th.

The entire meeting is on line at the URL below with the discussion starting about one hour and 25 minutes into the meeting.

http://app.dnv.org/council/default.aspx?filename=20161121cc&type=MP4&start=0&end=8378

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DNV traffic study looks at possible 300 housing units in “multiple 6-story buildings” as option for Delbrook lands site

At 5:00 pm Tuesday October 18th the District of North Vancouver Council will be holding a workshop to review the District’s Annual Transportation Plan. There is much of interest in the report to Council which can be found here:

http://app.dnv.org/OpenDocument/Default.aspx?docNum=3013732

Of particular interest to Delbrook Community residents is reference in the report to a Delbrook Lands Transportation Study, commissioned by Council in March and completed in June. The transportation update states that the study was completed “As part of the discussion surrounding the future uses for the Delbrook Lands” and “The findings were used to inform the discussion at the Delbrook Lands Deliberative Dialogue session on June 18, 2016.”

The Delbrook traffic study can be found here:

https://www.dnv.org/sites/default/files/edocs/delbrook-transportation-study.pdf

The study looks at the traffic impacts of four options for the site. Three options look at parkland, community facilities, a possible 28 town houses or a combination of the three. The fourth option presented is 300 apartment units in multiple six story buildings.

transport-study

The traffic study looked at vehicle and pedestrian traffic at the four intersections surrounding the property and concluded, “As shown, queues and delays at the study area intersections are expected to be reduced compared to existing conditions as the four land use scenarios generate less peak hour traffic compared to the existing site.” This despite the fact 300 units of housing are reported as requiring somewhere between 390 and 546 parking units.

Also, as the report acknowledges with respect to its traffic study, “Data for the West Windsor Road at Stanley Avenue and Delbrook Avenue at West Windsor Road intersections were collected during spring break in March, 2016.” Presumably, both foot and pedestrian traffic would have been reduced in rush hours when schools were out.

[Edit: An earlier version of this post indicated that the report was withheld from participants of the June 18th meeting. It turns out the report was indeed posted on the Delbrook Lands page under the “Related Policies” section, and we did not see it at that time]

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DNV asks for $525 to see communications with consultation consultant

The District of North Vancouver is demanding $525 before people will be permitted to see communications that took place between the District and its consultation consultant, Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue, on the future use f the Delbrook lands.

The demand arose from a Freedom of Information request asking for records and communications between the District and the Centre for Dialogue since the beginning of 2016. A response from the District’s Information and Privacy Coordinator said the charges arose from an estimated 12.5 hours of search time that would be charged at the rate of $7.50 per quarter hour. The District is required to offer three hours of free search time by the provincial FOI legislation so the total number of ours of search time suggest was 15.5.  The remainder was for 200 pages of copying charged at 30 cents per page.

Sharlene Hertz, the author of the FOI request and a District resident, has now asked the District to waive the fees in the public interest. In her appeal she said the following:

Decisions regarding future use of the Delbrook lands are an issue of significant interest for the people of North Vancouver. In January 177 people attended a consultation meeting. The site for the meeting had to be moved because more people asked to be there than could be accommodated in the original site. More people would have attended if they had been permitted to. A further 103 people responded to an online survey while 12 people submitted a paper survey.  This is a very significant issue for people in the Delbrook area of the District.

On its web site the District says, “We have partnered with Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue to conduct an innovative, open, and transparent public process to find options for what to do with the Delbrook Lands.” As well, transparency is among the guiding principles for the community consultation (Delbrook Lands Deliberative Dialogue Process and Guidelines, 25 April 2016). While the District’s consultant has limited this to openly reporting on consultation findings it is inconceivable that it would not also extend to the consultation process. Since the District is funding the process and its consultant, transparency would include release of communications between the District and the consultant.

I note that while 70 per cent of participants in the January consultation are reported as saying this was a productive first step, that this compares with 93 per cent level of satisfaction reported in the Deep Cove Parking Dialogue. A fully transparent process can increase the level of satisfaction. A lack of transparency will create further doubt in the process.

A feature of the response from the District was that, in total, they thought it would take more than 15 hours to track down all of the communications between the District and the consultant since January. This would seem t suggest an intensive level of communications between the two parties as to how the consultation would progress.

Delbrook Lands: not for housing

Jackie Wong wrote in recently with a plea to support low-income housing in Delbrook, implying that we should use a portion of the Delbrook Lands for non-market housing.  While I agree that there need to be options for those who cannot afford a million dollar home in Delbrook as in the rest of North Vancouver, I don’t feel that the Delbrook Lands are the right place for them. 

The Delbrook Lands, while a large parcel of land for development, are small relative to the district as a whole.  Even if the whole area was allocated to low-income families, it would be a drop in the bucket compared to the need.  The District needs a strategy for supporting families that covers the whole District, not just 4 acres.

We already have plenty of land devoted to housing.  Indeed almost the whole district is devoted to housing.  If, as in Vancouver, we relaxed the rules for secondary suites and coach houses, we could hope to increase the density across the district. Some of these options will support families, and most of it will be appropriate for lower income families.  

When the District realizes that punctate increases in density do not result in real improvements in capacity or affordability, they will surely follow other municipalities and not only allow but encourage increased density within our existing residential fabric. Hopefully, they take a systems view to it and also improve the transportation mix to support the increasing density. 

When we have this increased density, we will have even greater needs for educational and recreational programs, green space and meeting space than we have now.  If we turn the Delbrook Lands over to housing today, we will never have space for the infrastructure to support the people who are inevitably coming to our community.  

So, while I agree that we need to support the majority of families who will never be able to buy a side-split in Delbrook, to employ the Delbrook Lands to do so would be short-sighted.