February 13, 2019
January 7, 2019 Vancouver, Canada
On Monday it was raining in North Vancouver. In January it’s always raining in North Van.
I climbed into my rain gear and hiking boots, and collected my lunch, phone, travel mug of coffee, and wallet. With the phone attached to the dash, and the day’s first podcast lined up (the Archers, a long-running BBC soap opera) I checked my schedule and pulled my indestructible Ford Ranger pick-up truck out onto the road.
Like most writers I have always had a day job: I co-own a dog-walking company called Four Legs Good, and take groups of dogs out for off-leash trail hikes in the mountains outside of Vancouver.
When Tamara Leger launched Lions Bay House Concerts in 2015 she wanted to create an event that would allow neighbour to meet neighbour in the town of 500. Since then she’s found that her mix of folk, jazz, and art events has become an artistic success as well. Her concerts include a potluck dinner in a different home each time, and are as much social as musical.
In coming weeks she’ll be presenting award-winning Fingerstyle guitarist Jordan Brodie, regarded as “one of the best young guitar players in Australia”, at a private home in Dundarave on Saturday July 14th, and Montreal-based musician Cécile Doo-Kingué at a home in Lions Bay on Saturday July 28th. Continue reading “Music at home: When art gets social”
The District of North Vancouver is going ahead with improvements to East 29th Street between Lonsdale and Lynn Valley Road. As well as making the road safer and quicker for automobile drivers, including improvements to pedestrian infrastructure, the plan will eliminate almost all automobile parking below Tempe Crescent in favour of new continuous bike lanes.
During its May 27th meeting, the council approved an additional $972,000 for a total budget of $1.45 million. The city will contribute approximately $330,000 to paving costs. Phase 1 work will happen this summer to coincide with repaving between Lonsdale and William Avenue.
Arash Memarzadeh feels that the council just doesn’t understand the reality of Deep Cove. “To me it sucks to live here. We don’t feel like we have any ownership in the place where my parents raised three boys.”
A year after the District of North Vancouver brought in new rules to control the volume of visitor traffic into Deep Cove, some businesses feel as if little has changed. New parking restrictions and a ban on commercial tour busses were supposed to rein in the crowds that visit Deep Cove and Quarry Rock on sunny summer weekends but there is doubt how effective the changes were.
The District of North Vancouver has added 17 new Nissan Leaf electric vehicles to its fleet.
According to fleetcarma.com the Leaf is one of the top two electric cars in Canada during 2018, a year that has seen EV purchases leap by more than 150 per cent.
Reducing carbon emissions was important to the District, but this purchase is about more than just jumping on the green bandwagon.
District Energy Manager Monica Samuda worked with fleet managers on the business case for moving to electric cars. They looked at five brands of vehicles and when the numbers were crunched, reduced maintenance costs and the reduction in green house gas emissions …
Councillor Jim Hanson has proposed that District owned rental housing should be earmarked for use by non-profit agencies who are able provide housing to clients.
During the April 1st Council meeting he presented a report on “Prioritizing District-owned residential-rental housing for non-profit organizations” which asks staff to develop a new policy. Council specified that there is no intention of evicting existing tenants.
Hansen explained that, “The District does for various reasons own residential properties, in many cases on a temporary basis. To the extent that the District owns residential properties, and to the extent that those are rented for whatever period of time during which the District is considering the long term use and purpose of those properties, it make sense that they be used for a social purpose.”
In an email Janine Ryder, the District’s Manager, Real Estate and Properties, said the District currently owns 14 single amily homes, four of which are already rented to non-profit agencies, and ten of which are rented for residential use. This week a 1,404 sq ft ranch house on Belle Isle Place in Lions Gate is being advertised to qualified renters for $2400 a month. Ryder added that “The District purchases residential properties for other purposes not specifically for rental. The rental properties turn over infrequently.”
Hanson described the Marineview Housing Society as the type of group that could benefit from this policy. Marineview is a non-profit society incorporated in 1975 and is dedicated to providing safe, affordable housing for people on the North Shore living with psychiatric illness. Marineview currently operates four facilities, three in the City which are owned, and one of which is rented in the District. These include Chesterfield House, a 24-unit apartment building located near the civic center in the City of North Vancouver.
Marineview Executive Director Madeline Boscoe says that the motion is “a step in the right direction” but that much more housing stock is needed, not just for “teachers and nurses”, but also for those who can’t afford market rents. Boscoe was unfamiliar with Hanson’s motion, but explained that in order for a house to be used for their purposes it needs to be specially licensed, and would require a number of specific changes including fire sprinklers, upgrades to electrical systems, and other renovations specific to a residential care facility.
The North Shore Winter Club’s dream of a new facility on Dollarton highway was questioned by District of North Vancouver council at the March 4th meeting.
The club plans to build a new $200 million facility If they can do a land-swap deal with Darwin Developments at the site of the former International School at 2420 Dollarton highway.
Darwin will swap that for the ownership of the current NSWC property on Kieth Road with a proposal to build new residential towers. That land parcel is next to Darwin’s proposed Innovation District.
The NSWC’s current facility is in need of an estimated $50 million in repairs and renovations, an amount that NSWC President Jay Frizell says is far beyond the club’s capacity to borrow.
Falling membership numbers have left them in a tight financial situation, he says, and the club’s membership believe the Darwin plan is the best way to ensure the club’s future.
The NSWC began looking for a new location after members voted 94% in favour of relocating.
If built the club complex will include two full size ice rinks, and a smaller training rink, fourteen tennis courts, racquet courts, a twenty-five meter pool, a gymnasium, and a restaurant. The new facility would expand their building from 225,000 to 300,000 square feet.
The club has 2200 members, two-thirds of whom live in the District, and more than half of whom live east of Highway 1. A further 20,000 non-members each year visit the club to take part in classes and activities. The Winter Club’s hope is a that new facility will draw in new members and cost less to operate.
Mayor Mike Little asked what had changed since the 1980s when the Winter Club received council approval to subdivide their property to deal with another cash crunch.
“My concern is some of the history here. About 1982 there was a period of time there where the club itself was not solvent. The club was in a very difficult spot financially and it came to the District for help. But specifically at the time the District said ‘this can’t happen again’.”
In an email, Little said his concern from the 80’s was still relevant. He said the club’s survival required unlocking value from the property from the then council.
“Even though they were told at the time that they needed to raise their dues to cover the proper maintenance and replacement of their facility, successive NSWC Boards refused to set aside enough money and here we are again where the survival of the club is based on further up zoning the property.”
Councillor Megan Curren suggested that there had been a lack of transparency and wondered about the lack of community benefits.
“One of the concerns I first had when I learned about this project was the impact to the community and the fact that the community’s not hearing the whole story,” she said
Councillor Lisa Muri also shared Mayor Little’s concerns.
“What happened years ago when the District did agree to allow a rezoning in order to fund the club. What’s changed? It still seems to be that that’s the same solution. It’s like selling bits of your back yard to pay off your credit card.””
Despite the negative response from council, Frizell says that the next step is to prepare a package for the District outlining the project — the NSWC’s needs, and what it would take to renovate their existing home. At that point the NSWC hopes to get direction from Council about whether it’s worth proceeding, or what elements like traffic studies will be needed next.
Frizell says if the club don’t get approval then the plan is to try to start renovating.
“We’ve been delaying a lot of upgrades because we’ve been waiting to hear from the District.”
When asked if he thinks the current Council will support the Darwin project Frizell says “ I will be very surprised if they approve anything. Our hope is to get some direction one way or the other. If there are going to be traffic studies, and area studies and various hoops that we have to go through before anything can be considered we’d like to get that started so that we’re ready three years from now when there may be a new Council.”
Captain Doug Beckett, a twenty-nine year veteran of the District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue, was one of fifteen people honoured by the District for their help during the Lions Manor and Mountain Village Garden Apartment fires in the summer of 2018. At a ceremony in December Mayor Mike Little described how Beckett “who was off duty, but lives in (Deep Cove) responded to the fire from his home. Despite having no personal protective equipment he entered the burning structure and bravely assisted the elderly residents who were unable to escape safely on their own.”
Council Member Mathew Bond presented the newly elected DNV Council with a proposal to move ahead the District’s development of non-market housing during the November 26 Council meeting. Bond’s proposal intended to pre-zone District owned land in order to advance the successful Ballot question that authorized Council to spend $150 million over ten years to build at least 1000 new units of non-market housing.
Bond presented a short history of the previous Council’s work on the rental and affordable housing portfolio, and the “363 pages of staff reports, 110 slides of staff presentations and 40 pages of meeting minutes (that) went into developing the “Rental and Affordable Housing Strategy.”
As the North Shore prepares for the first snow of the season
residents of the District of North Vancouver are once again
questioning why the District refuses to require homeowners to clear
the sidewalks in front of their property.
Both the City of North Vancouver and the District of West Vancouver
have bylaws in place that make property owners responsible for
clearing sidewalks. The City is succinct is saying “The owner or
occupier of any real property shall remove any accumulation of snow,
and ice from the sidewalks and footpaths.”
West Vancouver is more specific, requiring snow clearing within
twenty-four hours or before accumulations reach 10 cm. Even though
neither municipality commonly tickets homeowners, the bylaws do give
them the opportunity to encourage residents to break out their
shovels and salt buckets.
The current District bylaw forces businesses and multi-unit complexes
to clear snow, but excludes the owners of single-family homes. When
the District last discussed amending their snow removal bylaws the
argument from then Mayor Richard Watson was that the District didn’t
want to fine seniors or people with disabilities who have difficulty
shovelling snow, homeowners who are away on vacation, and the owners
of vacant homes awaiting demolition.
Amy Amantea, the chair of the North Shore Advisory Committee on
Disability Issues points out that uncleared sidewalks are especially
hazardous to people living with various disabilities “who are
greatly affected by winter snowfalls.
“When sidewalks and bus stops are not accessible, people with
disabilities are many times trapped in their homes. This creates a
barrier to people with disabilities getting to work, medical
appointment and social activities causing a significant risk to their
effecting gainful employment, health and wellbeing.” she says.
Amantea also says that despite being legally blind “I shovel my
sidewalk diligently every snowfall. I get outside early in the
morning and shovel my driveway and the sidewalk in front of both my
home and my neighbours, because they just don’t. It’s a funny
thing when you look up my hilly street, Highland Blvd, and notice
that mine is the only sidewalk that is shoveled for as far as the eye
can see. “
New District Mayor Mike Little is promising to revisit the question.
“It hasn’t come up yet, and wasn’t featured in the election,
but I will bring it up.”
Even if the District currently has no way to force homeowners to
clear sidewalks, Little goes on to promise that the District will be
monitoring developers building in the District.
“The District expects all construction projects to keep their
sidewalks free and clear of obstructions, including the prompt
removal of snow and ice through the winter season.”
The newly elected North Vancouver School Board has voted to approve a new process for handling parent complaints about School Board employees, processes, and materials, but after a lengthy discussion decided to continue the District’s policy of not accepting anonymous complaints.
The updated Policy 406 is the result of work done through 2017 by a
committee of parents, educators, and administrators, and aims to
provide more clarity for parents while protecting complainants from
Director of Instruction Arlene Martin explained that the new Policy
removes the word “complaint” from its title and replaces it with
“concerns” and was intended to include a “problem solving
orientation.” Including parents and students in the language of
the policy was considered important.
Under the new policy a parent concern will be handled through a five
stage process, with the goal being to handle concerns as “near to
the source as possible.”
Parents will be expected to begin by presenting their concern to the
teacher or employee involved. According to Martin the goal is to
provide a response to parents within five days. If the parent isn’t
happy with the result they can escalate the complaint to the
Principal of the school, then to the Director of Instruction for
their family of schools. From there they can submit a written
complaint to the Assistant Superintendent, then to the
If all of these fail to satisfy the parent or student, and if the
concern “affects the education, health, or safety” of a student,
parents can give a written Notice of Appeal to the Board of
Trustee Cyndy Gerlach asked why the new policy specifically rules out
anonymous complaints. Gerlach said “I struggle with this. As a
school district we have a whistle-blower line. Any employee can make
an anonymous compliant at any time. So why is the same affordability
not provided to parents?”
Martin explained that this was discussed at length during several
meetings before it was decided to retain that sentence. The
committee members felt that the risk of damage that could be caused
by unfounded anonymous complaints was sufficient to exclude them.
Instead they adopted language to explicitly protect students and
parents from retribution.
Gerlach asked why the school district would not allow anonymous
complaints when it is possible to file an a anonymous complaint with
the Ministry of Children and Family when there is a suspicion of
She is concerned that some parents will not make a complaint if they
cannot do it anonymously, and that the five step process would lock
parents into dealing with problem teachers before being allowed to
Gerlach felt that “there are some times when the breakdown is so
significant that (parents) can’t talk to the teacher” and worries
that that the Principal could refuse to escalate the complaint if
parents refuse to talk to the teacher.
Trustee Megan Higgins admitted to having trouble imagining a
situation where an anonymous complaint could be made given that any
complaint would be about a student situation, and Trustee Mary Tasi
Baker clarified that while Social Services may maintain
confidentiality when accepting child related complaints, it was not
an anonymous process. District staff assured the Board that parents
always have the option of entering the complaints process at the
point that is most comfortable.