Notes from a Podcast: The North Shore’s Grand Bargain

Published: PriceTags.ca
July 9, 2019
658 words

(many thanks to the Price Tags crew for allowing space for this essay.)

During the Q&A that followed the Price Tags taping at the North Vancouver District Public Library moderator Gordon Price asked Holly Back, a member of the City of North Vancouver council, how she felt about the “bargain” that had been struck between the City and the District.

The bargain is straightforward: the City will build lots of new housing, more than a thousand new rental units, and low income and supportive housing, while the District will do nothing, in order to preserve a suburban community of single family detached homes.

As the City grows, the District will remain unwelcoming—to both outsiders and population growth.

The current District council is smug in its determination to block all new development, and openly hostile to developers, but I suspect they’re fooling themselves if they think this is a triumph. By refusing to approve any development, and asking staff for help in shaming council members who accepted developer contributions, the District is trying to preserve the type of community that was popular a half-century ago; one with suburban houses, big shopping malls, and a complete dependence on cars for transportation.

Meanwhile, the City is densifying, diversifying, and creating a twenty-first century municipality that acknowledges these changing demographics, as well as the looming threat of climate change.

While the District is chasing away projects that would offer services and housing to seniors, the disabled, and the low income workers that drive the retail sector, the City is welcoming them with open arms.

Already you can see and feel the difference. The lower half of Lonsdale Street—especially near the Shipyards and Seabus terminal—is alive with new development. A new Whole Foods store has opened, and a flurry of new businesses, restaurants, and services have appeared that are supported by the rising population. Equally noteworthy is the sense that it’s a young population moving in, with different priorities and different spending patterns. Compared to Lynn Valley where we live, it’s a community—alive and vibrant. There are even people on the streets after nine o-clock on a weeknight.

The feeling that the City is younger is in fact supported by the 2016 census; the City’s population is growing at a rate several times faster than the District, and much of that growth is in people in their prime earning years. That working age population represents a bigger percentage of the City’s residents, than the District, and it skews younger too. While the District’s population currently has more children and teens, by adulthood they’ll join the “missing middle” — younger working adults who can no longer afford to live in the District. Meanwhile, the District is left with a surplus of people at or approaching retirement age.

What hasn’t been discussed by the new District council is what all of this holds for the future. As the City adds housing, and population, and density, it will also grow its tax base and its economic activity.

Building housing will allow the City to grab the lion’s share of Federal and Provincial funding that has become available. More people will mean more spending, more jobs, and more vitality and resilience. A population that is younger and more diverse will create a city that can see new opportunities, and find new solutions to the problems faced by any municipality in the Lower Mainland. And of course, more density will encourage TransLink to improve transit services.

And the District? As the population ages into retirement ,the incomes that support local businesses will decline. As council insists that they only want two million dollar single family homes, they’ll see young people and young families choosing to live in the City. Those people will be looking south, towards the galleries, and shopping, and excitement of Lower Lonsdale and Vancouver, and eventually won’t even think about the District as a place to live or visit.

While the City thrives, the District will just fade away, becoming less relevant with every year.

DNV moves ahead with improvements to East 29th street

Published: The Global Canadian  (pdf)
June 4, 2019
471 words

 

https://i2.wp.com/www.theglobalcanadian.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/E-29-MAIN.png?fit=703%2C344&ssl=1

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.

Read More

In Deep Cove, visitors crowd out local customers

Published: The Global Canadian  (pdf)
June 4, 2019
686 words

https://i2.wp.com/www.theglobalcanadian.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Deep-Cove.jpg?fit=850%2C360&ssl=1Arash 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.

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DNV Adds 17 new electric cars to its fleet

Published: The Global Canadian on-line (pdf)
May 9, 2019
406 words

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 …

(Full Article can be read here)

 

 

Hanson’s Motion calls for new approach to rental housing

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
April 1, 2019
406 words

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.”

Chesterfield House

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.

Questions over Winter Club land swap proposal

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
April 1, 2019
716 words

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.”

DNV honours heroes of Deep Cove and Lynn Valley fires

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
January 1, 2019
574 words

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.”

Beckett had previously also been named the North Vancouver Fire Department’s “Fire Fighter of the Year” for 2018. Continue reading “DNV honours heroes of Deep Cove and Lynn Valley fires”

DNV’s Mathew Bond wants action, and not more ink

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
January 1, 2019
772 words

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.”

“I say this because we have already spilled a lot of ink on a plan for affordable rental housing in the District of North Vancouver, and I don’t know how much more ink is left in staff’s pens to do more study. We need action.” Continue reading “DNV’s Mathew Bond wants action, and not more ink”

Should DNV force homeowners to clear snow?

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
December 1, 2018
442 words

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.”

School Board to continue policy of no anonymous complaints

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
December 1, 2018
549 words

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 retribution.

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 Superintendent.

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 Education.

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 child abuse.

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 escalate complaints.

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.