Category Archives: Other Initatives

2017 All-Candidates Meeting for Vancouver-False Creek

-Presented by the False Creek Residents Association

Join us on Thursday, April 27, 7:00 PM at Creekside Community Centre as the False Creek Residents Association invites the provincial candidates for Vancouver-False Creek to participate in an All-Candidates meeting. This is your opportunity to ask questions and hear from the candidates on the issues that are important to the residents of False Creek prior to the May 9 Provincial Election.

The candidates for Vancouver – False Creek (Listed alphabetically):

James Filippelli – Your Political Party of BC (YPP)
Morgane Oger –  BC NDP
Phillip Ryan – BC Citizens First Party
Bradley Shende – BC Green Party
Sam Sullivan – BC Liberal Party (Incumbent)

The False Creek Residents Association is a non-partisan, volunteer-run neighbourhood group dedicated to improving the quality of life for everyone that lives around and visits False Creek—the heart of the city of Vancouver. For more information, visit us at www.falsecreekresidents.org.

Free Parking!

RandyVanEykRandy Van Eyk believes his 40-foot sail boat, Tuesday Sunrise, should be allowed to anchor in the waters of False Creek indefinitely. Vancouver City Council requires a permit and sets a limit.

While the permit is free, you can’t anchor more than 21 days out of 40 in the winter and 14 days out of 30 in the summer. Longer than that and you need to move to a marina.

If you choose to live aboard your boat—preferring the freedom of dropping anchor or sailing away when the mood strikes—should you get free and unlimited parking?

False Creek is a desirable stop for boaters. It has a shallow and muddy bottom, which is better for securing the anchor, and it’s a beautiful setting. But if you are not hooked up to water and sewage services, is it putting public health at risk? FCboat

And who’s responsible when this happens?

FCboatFire

An ownerless boat catches fire and the city’s engineering department is sent in to remove it. Your anchor doesn’t hold and your boat slips into a navigable channel, hits another boat, or capsizes? Who cleans up the fuel leaks?

What if your boat washes up to shore in a storm? How long does it sit there before it’s removed? Who picks up the cost of these mishaps?

Density Bonuses for Developers

The City has proposed changes to the definition of “social housing”    that will enable developers to build rental housing projects that qualify for a bonus in allowable density if 30% of the units are available for low income residents. Unfortunately ‘low income’ doesn’t mean minimum wage earners or welfare recipients. They couldn’t afford the $912 for a bachelor apartment. That is the rent level that qualifies developers for the bonus in density. The new definition means that the entire 100% of units will be called ‘social housing’ even if only 30% are available to lower income residents.

Further, the proposed changes give staff the authority to approve the density bonus without public hearing or any scrutiny by elected officials.

On March 24, 2015 Council held a public hearing on this proposed changes. The FCRA spoke against the amendments. Following is the presentation we made to council. The Public Hearing has been extended to Thursday, March 26, 2015. If you agree, you have an opportunity to be heard, either by speaking to Council on the 26th, or by writing to: Mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca, or by signing the petition launched by our neighbours at the Community Association of New Yaletown (CANY): https://www.change.org/p/vancouver-mayor-and-city-council-vote-no-to-the-proposed-amendments-to-the-downtown-official-development-plan-on-march-24-2015

Remarks to City Council, March 24, 2015
I am here speaking on behalf of the FCRA because we believe that the proposed amendments to the Downtown Official Development Plan (DODP) before Council today impact all neighbourhoods in Vancouver.

I want to raise 2 issues:

The need for democratic accountability in decision-making; and
The importance of accommodating deep core need residents in social housing across the city

First, the issue of democratic accountability:
I find it impossible to understand from the city’s material whether the decisions on density bonuses are made by elected officials or by public servants. If by both, in what order are these decisions made. Is it proposed that Council look at decisions made by public servants only after significant time, money and energy has been spent planning for the increased density? Or before? Will there be a public hearing? Will the community have a meaningful opportunity for input into decisions before additional density is granted?

I urge you not to compromise the importance of elected officials making decisions about whether or not to grant a density bonus. I have spoken in the past of the appearance of conflict of interest when developers donate huge sums of money to candidates. Having the public service make decisions around lucrative density bonuses raises the same level of suspicion or appearance of conflict of interest. We know that many city staff members later turn up as highly paid consultants for, or employees of, developers. Have their previous favourable decisions put them in line for such lucrative contracts? We wonder.

In my view, the city must ensure its policies and practices protect its staff from suspicions of abuse or corruption and even the appearance of conflict.

Density bonuses are serious business. Density bonuses exempt developers from zoning – zoning that was approved after public hearings; approved by elected officials according to the provisions of the Vancouver Charter. That whole scheme of accountability will be undermined if you allow density bonuses to be granted in private by anonymous bureaucrats, rather than up front, as part of a public and accountable democratic process.

Second, I want to say a few words about the definition of “social housing”:
This revamped definition forever takes developers off the hook for building housing for income assistance recipients. This revamped definition ensures that the DTES will continue to be the only place in the city for people on welfare to live. The city-wide definition excludes the most vulnerable who require housing at the welfare shelter rate. This is bad social policy.
The FCRA believes that there is significant evidence showing that strategies such as Scattered Site Housing, and Inclusive and Mixed Income developments have better results than high density enclaves of high need, high risk, high impact individuals.

The FCRA wants to see social housing across the city – social housing defined in the traditional way, for example, as the term was used when the Harcourt Government launched HOMES BC: housing for people at the shelter allowance rate, housing with rents geared to 30% of income (RGI); and housing for people who can pay rents at low end of market (LEM). With the developers delivering ‘turnkey’ buildings for social housing, the combination of these 3 groups should ensure viable projects.

If Market Rental Housing is required to ensure the viability of social housing projects, those units cannot be considered ‘social housing’. Market rental housing is not social housing.

There is no evidence to support the notion that increasing the supply of market rentals decreases the number of residents requiring assistance with affordability.

In summary, changing the definition of ‘social housing’ that will apply city-wide calls for a city-wide debate as it is the entire city that is impacted. To do otherwise, in my view, shows serious contempt for the recent Supreme Court of BC decision.

Firenze responds to false accusations

In an article published by the Vancouver Courier, a senior Vancouver School Board official accused the Firenze Strata Corporation of delaying construction of the International School.  The February 5th article written by Cheryl Rossi contains serious inaccuracies.  Unfortunately, the Courier appears to have made no attempt to verify the information before publishing this misinformation..

Here is the response written by the Firenze Strata Council:

Memo:     To the Residents of the False Creek Area   via FCRA

From:  Strata Council for the Firenze

Re:  Correcting the Record

We are certain that most residents of our neighbourhood are aware that the International Village School is to be built adjacent to our property.  We realize, as much as anyone, the need for this school, support its construction and anxiously await its completion.

We write to you as a result of an article published in the Vancouver Courier on February 5, 2015 under the headline “VSB (Vancouver School Board) settles with reluctant strata”.  The article was not accurate and contained incorrect information and erroneous conclusions.

Among other things, the article quotes Jim Meschino, Director of Facilities for the VSB, as saying that the right to build the schools foundation through our existing parkade was included on the land title.  This position has always been strenuously disputed by the Strata Corporation and, indeed, was to be subject of the court application which was on the verge of proceeding, but for the settlement reached between the VSB and our strata.  Just because this issue was not tested in court does not mean that we abandoned our firmly held position on this issue.  It simply means that both parties resolved to settle instead of waste resources in court.

He is quoted as stating that this was something that we either forgot or did not want to acknowledge.  This too is strenuously disputed.   The Strata Corporation did not forget or not want to acknowledge this, but rather we have maintained throughout that the documents at land title never authorized what the VSB was attempting to do.

He is also quoted as stating that the owners of the Firenze were concerned that the school would negatively affect our property values.  This also is strenuously disputed.  The Strata Corporation is keenly aware of what the issues are for our owners and, other than the units directly in line with the school walls,  a concern that property values would be negatively affected was not then and is not now one of them.

By way of background our residents have always been aware of the plan to build a school adjacent to our building from the time before they purchased their units.  We were surprised and shocked, however, when the Vancouver School Board  approached us and informed us of their requirements (demands) in order to meet their construction schedule.

Either through lack of planning, miscommunication, or oversight on the part of the VSB there were a number of issues that we, as a strata council, needed resolved before we could allow the construction to begin.  There were many issues (and no doubt there will be many more during the construction process) but just to give you an idea of the magnitude of our concerns here are some examples.

THE VSB demanded access to our parkade to construct several foundation pillars which were required to hold the weight of the new school which is being built directly above our parkade.

This was a shock to us as we had  expected  that because the school had been planned before the Firenze was built that the builder would have made the foundation strong enough to support its weight.   We suspect this requirement was as a result of changed construction plans.

We informed the VSB that before the construction could proceed we required an independent engineers report to assure us that the alterations to our foundation would not result in any compromises to our existing foundation.   This was not something the VSB offered, rather they acceded to a request which we made in this regard.

We were also concerned with the amount of insurance coverage in place in the event of a catastrophic failure and required assurance that our property would be adequately protected as a result of the VSB construction.  This had to be negotiated.

We were also told that in order to re-enforce our foundation 150 of our residents needed to be displaced from their parking for a minimum period of 6 months.  We had to negotiate the conditions under which this would happen and what compensation, if any, the residents would be entitled to.

We were also shocked to learn that the developer’s promise to the VSB of over 30 parking stalls for school staff parking was to be satisfied with the spaces that we, up until that moment, believed were ours for guest parking.  There was nothing registered on our Title to state that the VSB parking stalls were to come from the guest parking stalls allotted to the Strata Corporation.  This demand needed to be negotiated and researched.

Further the plans for the new school did not include a garbage room and the VSB advised us that they would be converting two of “their” parking stalls into a garbage room.  This was proposed to be placed in our main vehicle entrance.  This needed to be negotiated.

We could go on, however, highlight these several issues simply to give you an idea as to the magnitude of the issues the VSB brought to us along with their tight construction schedule.  All these issues, and more, needed to be addressed. There are also many unrelated issues that do not even involve the Strata Corporation as to why construction has been delayed and even if any delay can be attributed to the VSB’s need to obtain the consent of the Strata Corporation,  it was not, and never was, an issue of the Firenze trying to block construction but rather was an issue of the strata council doing their duty to protect, as much as possible, the investment and rights of our owners.

All these issues and many more needed to be negotiated and we, as a volunteer council, made ourselves available to the VSB at significant personal cost in order to deal with them.

The filing of the petition in Supreme Court was not a “last resort” as Mr. Meschino is quoted as stating in the article. The parties were still in negotiations when the VSB filed the petition seeking an injunction to, among other things, allow them onto our property to start construction of the foundation for the International Village School.  The petition also demanded return of any money we had made renting out “their” parking stalls.  We were disappointed that they would take this action as it would never be conducive to good neighbour relations. The result was we had to look past this and believe we are justified in feeling that it was as a result of significant flexibility and generosity on the part of this strata council that an agreement was finally reached.

As a result  of the rush to build a newly configured school, with all the attendant structural and parking issues, our residents were put in a position of having to pay a significant  amount in legal fees to protect their interests.  This is not fair to our residents.

This council was looking forward to putting all this behind us and moving forward with a co-operative partnership with the VSB.  This hope has been challenged but not dashed by the February 5th article in the Vancouver Courier.

We understand this is the first time the VSB has constructed a school adjacent to private residences.  There are many lessons to be learned from this project.  We sincerely hope that future developments will go much smoother as a result of the lessons learned from the construction of the International Village School.

This council is committed to doing whatever is necessary to move forward with this construction in order that our community will benefit from this much needed amenity.

Firenze Strata Council

 

We are continuing our efforts to have safe parks and playgrounds

The FCRA has sent the following email to the Mayor and Council in the hope of changing the City’s policy of not accepting calls about used syringes in parks and playgrounds.  In response to this email, Dr. Penny Ballem, the City Manager, has responded that she is following up with staff.  We await action on this important issue.

Dear Mayor and Council,

I am writing to bring your attention to a city policy that significantly increases the health and safety risk to children using municipal playgrounds.

You will appreciate that used syringes which are discarded in playgrounds pose a risk to children who may pick up such articles and cause serious harm to themselves or their playmates.  Parents or caregivers  who take their children to our playgrounds are aware of this danger and are anxious to report such articles to civic authorities.  Similarly, interested residents, runners, dog walkers etc. who spot these articles in parks and playgrounds want to keep the area safe from obvious hazards.

The 311 system was developed at considerable public expense to facilitate such reporting.  Many residents have a cell phone and will call 311, only to be told that the city doesn’t accept those calls.  As you likely know, the City has contracted out the needle pick-up service.  We are advised that 311 will not forward calls to an outside agency.

We have made numerous attempts to have the 311 administrators change this policy in order to ensure that playgrounds are safe for children.  However, 311 stands firm in their position that all residents should attend parks with paper and pen, and at least one free hand, so they can record the needle pick number and make a second call.  All this, presumably while maintaining control over their children. 

The False Creek Residents Association has been working closely with the Police Department and the Parks Board to improve safety in local parks.  Senior representatives on our working group, Inspector Howard Chow and Park Director Bill Harding, have been very helpful and supportive.  We appreciate their active involvement and commitment. Both would like to see this problem solved.  Neither have been able to influence the 311 policy.  Parents and caregivers are anxious to work with civic officials, to be an extra set of ‘eyes’, and assist in keeping public areas safe.  The current policy is a barrier to this important aspect of engagement.

We are advised by 311 administrators that the policy is based on the preference of the outside contractor to have the personal information of the caller.  This apparently trumps children’s safety.

We hope you will agree that children’s safety is paramount, and the City should do whatever is necessary to ensure that used syringes, used condoms, and other hazardous materials are removed as soon as possible from the playground area.  We have a collection of photos of syringes in playgrounds, hidden in play structures, strewn on the ground, on benches, in the grass etc.  I can provide these if necessary.

If the City can have a ‘one stop service’ for tax collection, surely we can extend the same concept to the collection of used syringes from children’s play areas.

 
Thank you for your attention to this matter.  I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.
 
Fern Jeffries
Co-Chair, False Creek Residents Association

Keeping Parks and Playgrounds safe for Children

Whether you’re out walking your dog or taking the kids out to play, we are all aware that our parks and playgrounds are often littered with used syringes, human and animal feces, and other garbage that threatens health and safety.

The FCRA has been working with the Vancouver Police Department and the Park Board to develop strategies for improving park safety.  Please check out our Action Plan and provide your  comments and input.

Active engagement with the Community Policing Office, Family Movie Night, a Community Baseball League —  some of the many ideas for activating the park and ensuring that it is safe for children and families.

This picture was taken December 2014 under one of  the play structure in the park.  Let’s make 2015 safe!

The Playground at Andy Livingston Park

Concord’s Response to the FCRA Petition

Concord has filed its response to the FCRA petition for judicial review.

Their response attempts to steer attention to FCRA motivation rather than the quite narrow focus on the question before the Court:  Would Concord suffer “unnecessary hardship” such that the City could grant them an exemption from zoning?

The response contains all kinds of information on soil remediation,  various charitable causes they support, constraints around the  timing of Creekside Park delivery, etc.  Everything except “Hardship” – the basis of the exemption!

Have a read.  You’ll enjoy it.

Open House December 3, Creekside Community Centre, 4 pm to 7 pm

The FCRA lobbied for the refurbishment of the Creekside Park playground as part of the Community Amenity Contribution paid by the developer for the rezoning of the area east of the Cambie Bridge..  You will recall that we lost one of the playgrounds on the south side of that park when Science World remodelled and built its outdoor Science extension.

We’re happy to report that the Park Board is now moving to renew the playground.  They will have some initial drawings and ideas to present.  They are asking for community feedback on this initial work and community input into the final placement of the playground, design and playground components.

Come to the Open House

 

Another Neighbourhood Voices Concerns of Promises Unkept

It appears that the renewal of the Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre is not as promised. A few years ago, the facility seemed secure on its Oak Park site. Now Park Board Commissioners are saying they want to move the facility to Granville Street. The Community is fighting back. Read the impassioned speech by one Marpole resident:

September 2014 about Marpole-Oakridge Community Centre renewal

My name is Wendy Hallinan and I live in Marpole. I thank you for the opportunity to speak to the Park Board.

I come here at the urging of Marpole residents who are very concerned about their community centre and rumours surrounding its renewal, one being that it will move to a busy street location (Granville and 67th) which is further from the soon-to-be high-density Cambie Corridor.

Even worse, Dr Moira Stilwell, our MLA said that “the city is thinking about moving the Y to Marpole and the community centre to Langara”. Well, Langara isn’t even in Marpole, so if that remark was meant to be funny, “we are not amused”.

11 days ago, I spoke with Park Board Commissioner Sarah Blyth who was very clear that her personal preference is for the community centre to be rebuilt on Granville St. She suggested that we contact the Marpole Park Board liaison, Aaron Jasper, who, since I have been sitting on the community association board, has never attended a meeting or submitted a report. This is the same Aaron Jasper who recently changed the locks on the Kensington Community Centre, locking the community association out of the building, a move some consider a bit heavy-handed.

How can Marpole expect a fair consultation process when Park Board Commissioners publicly espouse unqualified positions and are disconnected from the communities that they are supposed to be serving?

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey of Marpole residents, community centre users (including students from grade 2 to 12) and people attending our festival. Of the 330 respondents:

  • 10% want the community centre moved to Granville & 67

  • 83% want to keep the current location in Oak Park

  • 93% want to keep the current location if Langara is the new location

When asked to select from a list of 20 activities they would like to see offered:

  • more than 40% said they want a centre for social reasons (to meet friends, youth volunteer work, learning workshops, community gatherings, movie night)

  • more than 30% wanted dance, recreation, team sports, gardening, book club, ice rink

  • more than 20% wanted theatre, art, more club rooms

When asked for further suggestions, respondents identified 2 things that our community centre had in the past: a swimming pool and a stage for performing arts. The footprint for a pool and a disused theatre already exist in Oak Park. A plan is needed to re-open those facilities and then consider what else is required to serve Marpole’s planned 50% population increase.

We are aware of the plan to move the YMCA from Langara to Cambie & 57th. The Young Men’s Christian Association, a private non-profit, is not a suitable replacement for our community centre, a public non-profit. The Y cannot be a substitute for our community centre because it does not offer the social, recreational and creative programs that residents want.

Setting aside the merits of moving the community centre, let’s talk about the process of making that decision. All the buzz about relocation and a “civic centre” combining the community centre with other facilities comes before community consultation has even begun. I have no argument with rebuilding the library at its current location or somewhere else with “proximity to transit”, although I don’t know how close and frequent transit need to be to meet this criterion. But if it has been decided that the library and community centre are to be co-located and if the current community centre is not considered to have “proximity to transit”, then the decision has been made to move the community centre with no input from residents and patrons.

The problem with politicians unilaterally making decisions effecting community centres is that every 4 years community associations and centres can are subjected to political whims of the day. Renewal of the our community centre was in the previous capital plan but not the current one. The city has the money – but our centre’s renewal does not fit current high-profile political priorities.

Residents can only pray that methods used to establish those priorities are better than those used at our community centre which resulted in recent staff cutbacks based on “fitness centre usage” statistics derived from inoperative card scanners and patrons who didn’t sign in.

Few people understand the history of our community centres or the effort it took to establish them. In the beginning, it was the community associations who started the movement. 70 years ago, “the seed and initial push came from a handful of local community-minded people who, in 1944, conceived of the idea that became the spark that ignited the community center movement for all of Greater Vancouver.” That movement started in Marpole.

Our community centre’s significant place in Vancouver history deserves to be acknowledged by having its renewal included in this capital plan.