Marie Kerchum: City council is putting the livability of Vancouver in jeopardy

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      By Marie Kerchum

      Are Vancouver mayor and council making decisions in the best interests of Vancouver residents?

      The question above requires examining the influences on the decision makers and reviewing the resulting pattern of decision-making at city hall.

      A key feature of decision-making by Vancouver city councillors involves decisions on development across our city. Those decisions have a dramatic impact on current residents, and future generations, in respect to the livability of our city. Land use decisions and affordability are intimately connected because of the limited availability and price of land in Vancouver.

      The pattern of decision-making regarding land use in Vancouver, particularly over the period of the last six years, has been to rezone targeted areas of the city (spot rezoning) for the purpose of building overheight towers, most often in the face of strong neighbourhood opposition. The Vision Vancouver rationale given for allowing the "spot rezoning", and the resultant construction of overheight towers has been this: "we" must prepare for the future through densification and adapt to change according to the EcoDensity Charter.

      The Vision Vancouver council "solution" to the issue of housing affordability has allowed developers "bonus" density in the construction of overheight towers while breaching existing neighbourhood zoning bylaws. The net impact of Vision Vancouver’s Short Term Incentives for Rental Housing ((STIR)) program has not resulted in the creation of affordable housing. According to the CMHC Rental Market Survey for 2010, average West End rentals were: one-bedroom apartments renting for $1,110; two-bedroom apartments at $1,685; and three-bedroom at $2,568. For many renters this would hardly be considered "affordable" housing.

      This particular "solution" to affordability has consistently worked in the interests of developers and consistently against the interest of renters in neighbourhoods across our city. With the STIR program developers have, or will make huge profits. In the process, residents have lost their voice in development decision-making in their neighbourhoods and have been disenfranchised from participation in the process of how their neighbourhoods evolve. The livability of neighbourhoods across the city has been put at risk.

      Many neighbourhoods in Vancouver have, over the last six years, developed unique visioning plans to meet the challenges and responsibilities of the future. Vancouver communities have demonstrated the capacity to work together and collaborate with city planners to accommodate future growth and community needs. These plans have been presented to city hall by residents and community neighbourhood associations across our city, only to be ignored by our current council.

      Community planning, with real input from neighbourhood residents and representative neighbourhood associations, takes longer to develop than our current council has allowed, and most certainly does not come in a "one size fits all" package.

      The most significant situational pressure for Vancouver city council to address in the next term of council is the issue of housing affordability. The development community offers a "quick fix" to the dilemma of affordable housing, through the construction of overheight towers, in the process offering support to the mayor and council through tens of thousands of dollars of campaign donations.

      Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver (NSV) believes strongly that those who regulate land use policy (Vancouver city council) must not be funded by those they regulate because, inevitably, their decisions may be seen to be unduly influenced by the special developer interest groups, to the detriment of the greater public interest.

      Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver will encourage Vancouver residents to play a much greater role in developing solutions for building Vancouver’s sustainable future. If elected, as a first order of business in the next term of council, NSV will introduce a grassroots, effective and democratic decision-making policy and process which will incorporate the voices of residents living in the diverse communities across our city.

      The current Vision Vancouver city council has demonstrated that it consistently looks to the future without genuine respect and positive regard for city residents. Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver will ensure that all the residents of Vancouver are accorded the due respect and consideration we deserve.

      Real democracy may take longer, but Vancouver residents deserve respectful input to the decision making that affects our lives, the lives of our families and the lives of those in the 23 neighbourhoods which comprise the heart of our beloved city of Vancouver.

      Marie Kerchum is a Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver candidate for Vancouver city council.




      Nov 11, 2011 at 11:19pm

      Rezoning becomes a problem when you zone over a land owner's property and apply the law to them and not to future owners.

      Joseph Jones

      Nov 12, 2011 at 12:34am

      Case study in how massive condo construction contributes almost nothing to the community except crowding and traffic: King Edward Village. The 403 market condos produced a CAC (community amenity contribution) of $251,328.24. In other words, what each unit "paid back" to the City of Vancouver was less than $625.

      We will never know what the developer profit per unit was. Say a unit sold for $300,000 and the developer made 15%. That would be $45,000. It is clear that this project was an outrageous scam. King Edward Village marked a big turning point – developer invasion of traditionally residential Vancouver. Setting off a new land rush.

      Can't find a seat in your library? Can't find a daycare space? Can't get into a swimming pool or an ice rink? Can't even find a parking space on the street?

      Developers are strip-mining the City of Vancouver and making it far less livable. They need to contribute their fair share. Building has to happen, but it needs to have a sensible basis.

      This is an election where in cooperation with other independents and non-developer candidates offers a full and credible slate as an alternative to what we have been suffering lately.

      Taxpayers R Us

      Nov 12, 2011 at 11:51am

      Sorry, but NSV lost my vote on its bike lane position while I agreed on everything else.

      City Observer

      Nov 12, 2011 at 3:23pm

      Marie Kerchum has my enthusiastic endorsement.

      As a past Registrar of the College of Teachers, day-in, day-out, Ms. Kerchum was faced with the competing interests of the BCTF, BC School Trustees Association, concerned Boards of Education, and the provincial government's Ministry of Education, and each and every time stood up for the public interest. No mean feat that.

      Me, I want well-experienced, well-educated City Councillors of good conscience, City Councillors who've spent some time 'in the fray' prior to their involvement in municipal politics.

      In this case, that's Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver candidate Marie Kerchum.

      Reality Check

      Nov 12, 2011 at 8:58pm

      This statement gives away NSV as being part of the me generation that cares nothing about the future generations. Instead, they are only concerned about what they think are short term impacts on them.

      She states that "Land use decisions and affordability are intimately connected because of the limited availability and price of land in Vancouver." but opposes denser housing that will enable more people to live in Vancouver at more affordable prices. Even building more market rents will help bring the price down and slow the renovations of existing rentals making them more expensive.

      Slowing down the pace of development certainly will not make the city more affordable. It will just push people out into the burbs forcing them to drive to work increasing the already too high levels of traffic in neighbourhoods throughout the city.


      Nov 12, 2011 at 9:32pm

      Not all are condos, some are disabled housing and one is PAL. People mostly rent in some of them. Some rent out condos, of course condo boards might also prevent that, and this has to be looked at too. Big picture. Kerchum strikes me as a Vancouver/Empire club type who is scared about the house her and all the old families remember fondly. Anti-new money mentality. Take care of the poor so they don't become rich on their own devices, including with the creative individuals.

      Sarah Chesterman

      Nov 13, 2011 at 12:49am

      Not only does Marie Kerchum perfectly elucidate our current city council's most serious shortcomings, she pinpoints exactly why their 'Vision' hasn't panned out - AND how NSV will lay a solid foundation from day 1 for a more cohesive, positive process whose goals/plans are rooted in reality (ie. forward-thinking - yet DO-ABLE)...
      Chumming with developers, cutting out community concerns, creating conflicts of interest, forestalling community collaboration, eschewing proper planning for random & sprawling densification: Vision Vancouver's done more than enough damage to the livability of our neighbourhoods (despite their high ideals & well-meaning theories). Kerchum is right: proper planning takes time but is ultimately what prevents insults such as the King Edward Village mentioned from occupying & towering over residential areas like alien invadors with no real community connections (& little resemblance to concepts or features outlined in official planning documents)...
      What have we got to lose by giving NSV a chance to make sustainable Vancouver a reality?


      Nov 13, 2011 at 8:42am

      I couldn't agree more with Ms Kerchum. I believe what needs to be done is to remove the attraction for speculators. It's not uncommon to find people purchasing numerous units in new buildings, strictly for speculative purposes. The developers make their initial profit of course, but it's the flipping of properties by speculators that removes them from the 'affordable housing' market, drives up the price of real estate city-wide and encourages a perpetual cycle of development and speculation at one end of the scale, and homelessness at the other. If affordability and livability are going to be tackled, we need laws to discourage speculation. Not a pleasant task for any city council, but the alternatives are not pleasant for those of us who actually live here. Tackle speculation and you'll see development slow down and folks having places to live, as now-empty suites return to the market. The bottom line is simple: people who live here and can afford housing will stay and contribute to their communities through taxes, purchasing power, taking care of their homes, volunteerism and all the ways that citizens have to make their neighbourhoods livable. If speculation isn't addressed and dealt with, nothing will improve.

      Thom Son

      Nov 13, 2011 at 12:53pm

      Couldn't disagree more. Complainers never vote anyways, so I don't take them seriously. NSV will receive less than 1% of vote.

      James G

      Nov 13, 2011 at 10:08pm

      I have voted the complete left slate (due to the lack of wards) in every municipal election since 1978. I even turned out for the civic school board bye-election to help Gary Onstad of COPE beat Philip Owen of the NPA. Perhaps as a perfect attendance and solid slate vote, I consider myself more than an idle complainer.

      My vote was stolen last election. Instead of COPE Light, I ended up electing HOPEless Dim. Vision has eclipsed the NPA on the right -- no wards, developer funding, tax breaks for business and restrained instead of free access to information. I know the COPE and NSV candidates I will vote for will not all win but I may help deny Vision a majority. I will also have the satisfaction of not having my vote appropriated and misused once more.

      I believe the electorate will hand a lesson to the most excessive of this past council. Meggsomaniac, or Free Range Meggs or Councilor Cabslip is a first-term (and I hope only term) newbee who plays Dick Cheney to the Mayor's George W. Bush. Green Chicken Reimer or Councilor Brownshirt would be better off with some time away from Council to think about the nature of a democratic system, about what are the limits and what should be taken for granted and who not ... whether or not they live in social housing.

      Councilor Tim Stevenson was never very representative of the gay community but I will grant that if he was as typical as myself, he probably would not be electable. Nonetheless, his support was waning before Vision went nutbar on West End zoning. I don't believe he can pull in the votes any more. Then there is Ms. Deal. I have never been able to understand where her support came from, so maybe it still stays by her now and maybe it doesn't? Add that to the potential synergy of four very energetic campaigns of Chinese candidates (two NPA and two Vision) and you get a nicely balanced result with no Vision majority. Yes, everyone knows the name Adriane Carr but name recognition itself without allies or resources might not pull her into the top ten.