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.

West-side residents left unrepresented on DNV Council

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
November 1, 2018
460 words

Homeowners around Edgemont Village have spent several years putting up with construction delays and disruption to their neighbourhood.  Delbrook residents around the proposed development at 600 West Queens Road have been attending public meetings to express their great concerns with the five story building that may soon begin construction. Residents of Lower Capilano and Norgate are preparing for years of their own problems as the new town centre is built at Capilano Road and Marine Drive. If any of these people had hoped that the new District of North Vancouver council would better represent their needs they may be out of luck. When the dust had settled on last month’s elections the geographic divide was evident. Of the 31 people running for office in the District only four lived west of Lonsdale, and only School Board candidates Kulvir Mann and Bruce Devon were elected.

It’s not as if voters in Upper Capilano, Norgate, or Edgemont stayed home instead of voting, it’s because they’re outnumbered two to one by voters in Lynn Valley and Seymour. The 88,000 votes cast for mayoral or council candidates in the east side of the District overwhelmed the 43,000 votes west of Lonsdale. That split reflects the voters list, which had an east west split of 43,200 and 20,800 voters respectively.

Edgemont’s Robin Delany says that it’s premature to say this will be an issue. He feels that “we’ve got six counsellors and a great new mayor coming in, and I’ll trust that all six counsellors would represent all North Van District people equally whether you’re from Lynn Valley or Seymour.” Delaney is sure that all members of council understand that Edgemont Village is suffering badly from construction and development fatigue.

The Delbrook Community Association’s Rene Gourlay is less certain. “We are disappointed in (the result), as we were with the previous council as well. What it means is that council members have no context. They may drop their kids off up here for soccer practice, but they don’t spend time in Edgemont Village like we do; they don’t spend time on Mosquito Creek like we do. It means that we have to be super vigilant to paint a clear picture for a council that has no relationship with the western half of the District.”

Newly elected mayor Mike Little is sure that council can represent everyone in the District. “I think you’re going to find that a lot of the issues are similar no matter where you go in the District. People are concerned with density and traffic; I don’t know that there’s necessarily a big geographic difference in priorities. We just have to make sure that council members are getting out and participating in activities in all communities and making sure that we have a close connection.”

A handbook to keep School Board trustees focused on important work

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
November 1, 2018
519 words

North vancopuver School Board LogoWhen four new trustees join the North Vancouver Board of Education this month they’ll have the advantage of a brand new Trustee handbook.

The 69 page handbook aims to explain the things that Trustees need to know, including explanations of how meetings are run, a detailed explanation of “conflict of interest,” and a list of more than 100 acronyms that they might encounter while doing their work.

The four years of the previous Board were notable for ongoing personal conflicts among trustees, culminating this month with a complaint by outgoing trustee Susan Skinner alleging sexual harassment by a colleague, as well as alleging workplace bullying by other trustees. The handbook was one of several recommendation from governance consultant Lee Southern, who was appointed by Ministry of Education to assist the Board in resolving their organizational problems.

Christie Sacré​
Christie Sacré​

The handbook was written over the course of ten months by a school board staff member, with direction and input by trustees. It tries to answer questions that trustees might have, and define the behaviour that is expected. According to chair Christine Sacré the goal was to take information from existing documents, both at the school board and from the BC School Trustees Association handbook, and tailor it to the needs of North Vancouver.

One important part of the handbook is the explanation of the different roles of a trustee and the School Board staff. The handbook explains it as “Governance is the role of the Board of Education. Operations is the role of Senior Staff and deals with day-to-day functions of the School District. It is recommended that the boundaries be observed and respected.”

The handbook goes to great lengths to explain that a trustee’s job is to develop policy which staff will implement. Trustees are not responsible for the day to day operations of the school system – that lies with the Superintendent. In particular trustees do not have any role to play in managing teachers and other employees. At best they can pass on concerns to the Superintendent who will deal with it through regular channels.

One of the most difficult parts of the handbook dealt with “conflict of interest.” According to Sacré this wasn’t because there was any disagreement about the need for the section, just that everyone was concerned that the language used was exactly what was needed. She explains that new trustees often arrive with specific concerns and aren’t always clear that they now represent all of the members of their community, not just one group or another.

The ultimate goal of the handbook is to help trustees to understand that the power to make policy lies with the entire Board, not with individual trustees. Although trustees can speak out if they disagree with a decision, their first objective is to support the work of the board as whole, and the school district in particular.

Sacré hopes that by making everyone clear on expected behaviour and roles the incoming board can spend the bulk of their time on more important matters like bargaining the new teacher contract, and managing upcoming changes to the provincial funding formula.

Know about school boards elections in North Shore

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
October 1, 2018
456 words

When the current school boards were elected in 2014,  Christy Clark was Premier, and the Supreme Court of Canada had not yet decided that class size and composition needed to be returned to the bargaining table. That court decision in November 2016 and the election of the John Horgan government in May of 2017 brought dramatic changes to BC school districts.

At the same time the North Vancouver School District was spending nearly $200,000 to try and resolve inter-personal issues among Board members that were alleged to include bullying and sexual harassment. Continue reading “Know about school boards elections in North Shore”

Building Bridges: A new political party in the DNV

Published: The Global Canadian (pdf)
October 1, 2018
420 words

Building BridgesThere are two reasons why Building Bridges chose this year to launch a new political party in the District of North Vancouver. The first and most obvious is that in a town where incumbency almost always equals re-election the retirements of Richard Watson, Doug Mackay-Dunn, and Roger Bassam opened up the field.

When Council members run time after time it can be hard for newcomers to overcome the advantages of name recognition, healthy campaign funds, and a basement full of campaign signs.

The second reason for the launch of this new party is disaffection with the status quo. As Building Bridges mayoral candidate Ash Amlani says, “We’re tired of seeing the same old same old and we know that the challenges we face won’t be solved by voting for more of the same.”

The slate includes two experienced local politicians, incumbent DNV councillor Mathew Bond and long-time Tsleil-Waututh council member Carleen Thomas. Bond is a Transportation Engineer, avid biker, and devoted family man. Thomas is an educator and has served for sixteen years on the Tsleil-Waututh band council. Both Bond and Thomas want to see a lot more affordable and rental housing in the District.

Joining them is political newcomer Sameer Parekh, a marketing manager at BCAA. Along with the overall Building Bridges platform he supports the Maplewood Innovation District and the housing that it would deliver. Running for School Board is Devon Bruce, who describes himself as a “dedicated professional in special education with over a decade of varied experience in the field.”

Much of the Building Bridges platform echos the incumbents running again this year, with housing and transportation topping the list. “We need to make sure that people who work in North Vancouver can afford to live here.” Amlani says. She describes a generation of young people who are “frustrated with the inability to stay in the region.” Helping those people means more density, and more purpose-built rental stock. The group also sees improved transit service and bike infrastructure as essential to serving the local population and reducing traffic congestion.

The North Shore sometimes has a reputation for being insular, or resistant to change, and there is a part of the population who are vocal in their opposition to population growth. Building Bridges wants voters to look beyond their own neighbourhoods. “There’s a global demand for change,” says Amlani, “information moves quickly, global capital moves quickly, work styles have evolved. People are looking for government that is able to respond to those changes, that can be resilient.”

https://www.buildingbridgesnv.ca/

Continue reading “Building Bridges: A new political party in the DNV”