CoV Planning and Orwellian Doublespeak

Further to my earlier post regarding the development of 1766 Frances, I want to point out a method by which the Planning Department in Vancouver uses doublespeak to push through developments that cannot be approved in any other way.

The Planning Department’s Recommendation for 1766 Frances claims that it “meets the intent of the Grandview-Woodland Community Plan with respect to the delivery of social housing” and therefore should be approved. However, this claim was immediately challenged and the head of Planning, Gil Kelley, felt the need to issue a memo dated 5th February (but which was not made public until yesterday) clarifying that the project should be approved under the terms of section 7.1.3. of the Plan.

During the questioning of staff by Councilors, Planning was specifically asked whether this project would have been approved had it been anything other than social housing. The answer was a firm “No.” It was, they said, approved because of 7.1.3.

After the staff presentations and the applicant’s presentation and a dozen or more public speakers had concluded, the Councilors made their closing remarks before voting. Almost without exception, they praised the development and — having drunk deeply of the Planning Department’s Kool-Aid — said they were going to approve the project because it met the Grandview Woodland Community Plan guidelines.

So let us look at the infamous section 7.1.3. of the Grandview Community Plan. The relevant bullet point states:

“7.1.3: Consider modest increases in height and density for the delivery of non-market housing to assist with project viability” ( p.131)

The key word here is “modest”.

The change in zoning that was approved last night increased the allowable height from 10.7m to 29.28m — an increase of 273% — and increased the allowable density from 1.4 FSR to 4.06 FSR — an increase of 290%.

Perhaps that is an unfair comparison as the rezoning had to be taken from the pre-Plan starting point. Under the Plan, the allowable number of storeys is 6; the approval is for 9 — an increase of 50%. As for density, the Plan allows for 2.4 FSR and so the increase agreed to last night was 70%.

Only in George Orwell’s dystopian world of doublespeak could increases of 273% and 290% or even 50% and 70% be considered “modest”.

It is as if the Planning Department in Vancouver is speaking a language known only to themselves and their developer friends; a language designed to confuse the rest of us and to thwart the terms and conditions of the social contract known as the Community Plan. It is a sad business that Vancouver City Council allows themselves to be dragged by the nose by their staff.

6 Responses to CoV Planning and Orwellian Doublespeak

  1. nathanarticulated says:

    Very good analysis.if Vancouver had a proper OCP By-Law this would have possibly not happened.

  2. Reblogged this on CityHallWatch: Tools to engage in Vancouver city decisions and commented:
    This below is reblogged from Jak King, Vancouver historian, prolific blogger, and civic watcher.

  3. MDRA says:

    The definition of “non-market housing” has always included rental (market and moderate income). So a hard “no” that anything but social housing is allowed is also not entirely correct. The Neighbourhood Plans are written intentionally vague so the DoP can exercise discretion where it suits.

  4. Al Green says:

    What makes you think that Council isn’t fully aware of this misinterpretation of the Plan, or even instigating it?

  5. jakking says:

    Mr Green may be right. However, my believe is that the strongly politicized planning bureaucracy created under Vision remains and it is they, not Council, that is pulling the strings.

  6. jakking says:

    MDRA is misreading my post. It was Planning that specifically said a non-social project of this size would not be allowed. The DoP is obliged (in theory at least) to follow the By-Law on Social Housing which, in this case, I believe he breached.

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